The road can be a superb tonic for docile souls like me, it can also be a great psychometric analyser … tearing apart the facade of the pseudo-decent masks that many wear, thus laying bare the real person within. Rahma, my driving instructor taught me in addition to the rules of entering and exiting a roundabout, the rules of how to pre-empt convoluted moves planned in the pretzel-like, roundabout mind of another driver on the road! Her Zanzibari native wisdom emerged as we drove around, often scoffing at my diffidence as I manoeuvred around under her tutelage.
However when I actually began driving independently, I realised that humankind was actually stripped bare on the road, the good, the bad and the ugly spirit within; all came to the fore. There was a Mr Rush who always wanted to bully his way into another lane, the tip of his monstrous SUV staring threateningly at my little Beetle (whom I lovingly call Herbina) … I visualise Herbina — teary-eyed, coaxing me to give way to Mr Rush. So I try to empathise with him, perhaps he has the immense urge to run to the washroom, thus playing havoc with his motion on the road! Probably people of his ilk should begin wearing diapers to ensure safety on the road and on his driver’s seat too! Herbina and I have seen the Miss Caked-up-face going ballistic on the way to her destination; her patience easily runs out, understandable, after spending hours painting the face. The light has just turned green, but lasts a few seconds only, as I draw closer it turns amber. A sincere disciple of Rahma, I stop, refraining from the temptation of plunging forward … Miss Caked-up-face honks, frenzied madness seeps up on the surface of her pretty face. My Zen-like calmness irritates her further as she abuses me through the rear view mirror. Herbina and I smile back at the distressed lady! The light turns green and I speed away … making peace … now I understand why the colour “green’ is synonymous with peace and ‘go’!
I wanted to join that main road for quite some time now, but could somebody please give way? As the drivers, go-getters all of them, see my indicator and the novice in me trying to enter the main road they seem to speed up even more. I remember Darwin, survival of the fittest, Herbina encourages me to be bold and forge ahead. I look into all the mirrors and shoulder-check just like Rahma had taught me. However I surprisingly do one more thing that she never taught, I roll down my window smile at the driver and car that was about to ignore me, smile helplessly, the smile probably tugged at the heart of matronly lady; she smiles back and gives way. She probably was the soft, easily malleable type; her persona emerged then and there. This of course did not work with the hardened, cruel looking man the next day. I assumed that he was unperturbed by the hardships that others go through, probably going through a lot in life himself.
“Be ruthless with the ruthless … but keep the traffic rules in mind.” Rahma’s words reverberated in my mind; I obey this to the T both in life and on the road nowadays. As I went to drop my son to school one day, I saw a young, immaculately dressed man trying to join the main road, I gave way to him. But was surprised when he just sped over the pedestrian crossing, ignoring a pregnant lady with a child in a stroller, who was trying to cross the road. Was he the nouveau metrosexual? The crudeness within him gushed out like muck staining his branded demeanour with blemishes of selfishness! Next day I saw the same person, again trying to get his way out of this muck ridden soul, however I made sure I did not give way.
I am known to be pathetic with directions, beyond redemption to be honest! One day as I was returning home from somewhere I took a wrong exit, I was frantic, as I switched on my GPS, I just scraped past a van. There was hardly any damage done to both vehicles, the van was filled with hotel staff, who seemed exhausted but they looked at me and my son reassuringly. The driver realised that I had lost my way and probably he saw that even the GPS wouldn’t be able to salvage a lost soul like me. He comforted me and asked his assistant to accompany us and show me the way as he was going the same way. That day I met a ‘Good Samaritan’. Another lesson learnt: Never judge a person on the basis of his position on the societal ladder.
My quest on the road is still on … my quest to become a better driver and a better human being. The road will bring forth many signs. Follow them wisely especially while driving through the rough patches. Thus, fleeing from aggression and ego will make the road safer and smoother, by far.
Navanita Varadpande is a writer based in Dubai. Twitter: @navanitavp