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Driving on Indian roads is an adventure-a reality show where lives are at stake. No wonder ,all over the world,Indians are considered to be excellent players in games which involve racing, speed, manoeuvring ,dodging etc. Indian roads act as simulators and training grounds for all the gamers and all the skills are learnt while driving.

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The variety of drivers seen on roads is immense and quite divergent. Though the ultimate mission is to reach the destination,techniques used to achieve the goal vary from driver to driver. The roads are witness to strangeness in the case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The anthem for these drivers is the song “Devil behind the wheel” by Chris Knight and the favourite words are:

I need an angel in the worst kind of way
Seems like i get meaner every single day
I don’t remember making the devil no damn deals
Maybe I got lost one night and the devil got behind the wheel

There’s a road to heaven for every soul on earth
Lord I believe that for what it’s worth

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Irrespective of caste and religion,age,gender,economic status these Devils can be broadly classified in the following categories :

Zig Zaglers– they ride mostly on two wheels and some of them have graduated to four wheels but the traits of two wheel drive still exist in their minds. They need six inches of space any where on the road,between the vehicles and can zig zag their way out. These drivers are responsible for the scratches and broken side view mirrors on most of the vehicles. They are most active when the other traffic is not moving.

Always on the move– Even on the red lights they are never stationary . They may stop before the zebra crossing but will keep on inching their way forward concentrating on the traffic light on the other side of the road where traffic is moving. The accelerator is put to maximum when the other light turns yellow before it turns red.

Speedy Gonsalves aka Formula 1 racers– they are always racing,always overtaking people. Speed restrictions do not bother them,aim is to leave everyone behind. But however fast they may go,they are found again in your company at the next red light and the next and the next.

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Old wine in new bottle– mostly senior citizens the maximum speed limit is actually maximum. They make it a point to keep a good margin between the speed of their vehicle and the maximum permissible speed. They normally drive on the right side of the road making sure that no body is able to overtake them. They are most of the time harmless but good enough to test your patience.

Out of the box thinkers– they are special creations of God,their thinking is totally different. In case of traffic jam,they immediately move to the opposite lane thus blocking the moving traffic of other side also. Used to abuses they will somehow be able to move leaving the others fuming in a chaos.

Marching ants– mostly three wheelers of all sorts,the arrogant autos,the small size transporters they are all over the road,in all the lanes.The traffic rules do not apply to them,they have the liberty to stop anywhere on the road ,be it in the middle also.

Road rulers-the size matters here. The bigger vehicle is,more are the powers. Mostly constitute buses and trucks they are the most dangerous on the roads. With license to kill in the pockets,they are responsible for maximum fatal road accidents. They are capable of taking a ninety degree turn without giving any signal,speed limits are jokes,lane driving is insane driving to them.

Conversationists: Vehicles (mostly big ones) from opposite will stop in the middle of road and the drivers after exchange of pleasantries  will start  discussing the issues of national importance from their respective vehicles. The traffic behind can wait.

The Managers-by the time these driver start and reach the destination,half of the office work is complete while driving. They talk on cellphone,they text while driving.They are capable of making Powerpoint presentations also while behind the wheel.. They are the most busiest people on earth who feel that the survival of the world(office being a part) depends on the quick decisions they are able to make on the move.

Fence sitters-undecisive,they drive in such a manner that they manage to block two lanes. Normally drive slow,by moving in two lanes they ensure that no one can overtake them from either side.

Competitors-what happens when a slow moving vehicle decides to overtake another slow moving vehicle? Others follow cursing them in choicest expletives. For miles they will drive parallel to each other,the competition goes on and on till the time a broader road appears and other can move ahead.

Smoking guns-while driving they leave behind a trail of smoke,sometimes black sometimes white depending on the fuel they are using.

Dancing Cars or Sound of music variety: You don’t actually see them,you only hear them. They will pass on the road,tinted glasses most of the times,loads of graphics on the exterior of the vehicle. All you sense are some extremely loud and heavy beats (identical in all such vehicles) through the closed windows.

The movie PK gave altogether a different meaning to “Dancing Cars”

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Photograph by Sandeep Verma

Jumping Jacks-for them the red,yellow and green lights which are put on poles at a certain distance are for beautification of the city. In the evening these lights flicker,change colour giving a feel of festivity. They just look for a traffic police at the signal and if unable to spot one,they just move on,jumping lights.

Honky Tonk Man– honking is their birth right,they honk at red lights,they honk in a traffic jam,they honk in moving traffic. Honking is music to them,their lifeline. An expert in automobile industry once shared that even best of the high end cars put horns which are made in India for the simple reason that they are the loudest. Abroad honking is like abusing but on Indian roads abusing is a way of life.

Ahead of times & Lines: For them Zebras are supposed to be either in Jungle or at the zoo. So Zebra crossing is something they cannot relate to. Why will a zebra cross the road is the logic behind not stopping before the zebra crossing at the red light.

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Car-o-bar-meaning business, the occupants,mostly in groups they can be easily spotted after sunset near a tandoori chicken joint. Car is a moving bar for them,they stock everything from alcohol to soda,glasses,everything. After a busy day at work they stop to to unwind-loud music, hot tandoori chicken or paneer tikka accompanied with the choice of alcohol. They are also seen behind the groom in an Indian wedding. The dancers in front of the groom take break from the nagin dance,go behind to the moving bar,take a swig and come back to the dancing floor. No wonder the baraat (Wedding procession) never reach on time,all depends on the supply of spirits at the car o bar.

The show stopper– you are the first one at the red light standing well behind the zebra crossing enjoying the soft music playing in your car,this driver will overtake you and stop in front of your vehicle. He will switch off the engine and wait with you for the lights to turn green. And when the light turns green he will try to turn the ignition on. In first few attempts he will not succeed but the moment light turns yellow his engine will start and he will drive away. And by the time you inch forward the light will turn red again and you will be left high and dry. Happens to me all the time.

These are a few varieties of drivers which I have experienced during my last 25 years of driving on Indian roads. This list does not include the cyclists,horse/elephant riders(yes they can still be found),vehicles pulled by humans or animals like rickshaws,bullock carts etc.

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© All Rights Reserved Ravi Dhingra

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