Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Road Rage

I am angry. Furious. And if I don’t write while I’m still fuming, I’ll not write about it at all. Without blinding rage, the whole episode will look too silly to write about.

Ok. I just got back from the vegetable shop round the corner, in front of which I was insulted by a gentleman, probably in his forties, driving with his wife beside him and children behind.

I had ‘looked to the right, then to the left and then to the right again’ as I was taught in small classes before I crossed the road. I saw this Tata Indica coming but it was sufficiently far to permit me to cross unhurriedly. Now let me make this clear. Gone are the days when I made a cheeky dash across the street putting a speeding driver in a dilemma. Today, I crossed the road leisurely because i could afford to do it, and any fool who noticed my pace would realize that walking fast is a difficult proposition for me. This Indica started honking long before it reached anywhere near me. I didn’t realize all that noise was meant for me. I crossed the road and was waiting for the person who stood in front of me to move away so that I could place order for the vegetables when I heard this car honking insistently behind me. Turning around casually, I was shocked at what I saw. The guy had stopped the car just behind me, and was leaning across his wife and scowling at me through the window on her side.

“Chevi ketoodey? (Are you deaf?)’, he snarled. “Chumma erangi nadannekua (you don’t have your wits about you when you walk on the road)”

I was too shocked to react. Before I could gather my wits and retort, the car shot off.

I felt terribly insulted. The vegetable vendor and his assistant tried to shout back at him, but the car had driven off by then.

Why on earth did he behave so viciously? Was he annoyed at my unhurried pace when I crossed the road? Did he interpret my slow movement across the road as lack of respect that was due to his apparently new acquisition?

As I walked back home, I felt like kicking myself for letting him get away with such barbaric behaviour. I thought of the many things I could have told him if I hadn’t allowed myself to go numb with the shock.

“Where is it written that you can insult people once you get into a car?”
No. That was too mild.
“Shut up you upstart” would have been ideal. I tried to imagine his expression at this insult. And then, my imagination took off from there. I saw myself walking around the car, opening it, grabbing him out of his seat by the scruff of his neck and socking him on the nose. I smiled at the thought - and found a passerby returning the smile! I hastened my steps.

This is not the first time I’ve seen Malayalees behave like this when they get behind the wheels. Once in the car, they behave as though they are the lords of all they survey. To be fair, this is true not about males alone. Once in a way you come across women too who behave like this – but it is very rarely.

What’s the psychology behind this behaviour, I can’t help wondering? What is it that makes them think that a driving license is also a license to insult pedestrians, or splash water over them on a rainy day? Does driving a car give them a sense of superiority over them? Does it give them a sense of importance and power?

I just can’t figure it out. But I 've figured out something. Wealth and car do not make a gentleman.


  1. This must have been so upsetting! Road rage can even be dangerous. It does make people ill mannered, ungentlemanly and rude. Even slightly mad.
    In India whoever has the bigger vehicle thinks they are the kings on the roads. And those who have temper problems are a nuisance for all on the roads.

    We were waiting in a car in Delhi for a friend to join us, the friend got in and the driver started the car, and he noticed another car parked in our way, so we couldn't move. The driver honked, a young girl pointed at another girl limping towards the car, aided by a man. Her foot was bandaged.
    We waited.
    The girl got into that waiting car, and then suddenly the man marched towards us and started shouting at our driver - for honking. I asked him what was his problem, how were we to dream why the car was parked in front of us until the girl pointed out, once we saw why the car was not moving, we waited. But he seemed mad. Then the same girl came out of their car and literally dragged him away to their car. He had seemed so mad - that uncontrolled he would have got into a fist fight with our driver.
    Another time on a highway - a girl made some rude gesture, and I almost wanted to chase them and ask them what she meant.
    This is the same story everywhere. I love Radio Mirchi ad that says, "Na toone signal dekha, na maine signal dekha, accident ho gaya rabba rabba."

  2. From a driving perspective: He must have just been revving up from first or second gear, getting ready to shift to third, when you started your slow walk across the road. Hence the vitrio, perhaps.

    Here in automatic transmission land, where the general rule is 'yield to pedestrians', we even unflinching brake for squirrels, turkeys, deer, because we have no concerns about trying to juggle clutch and accelerator.

  3. The old forgetful gentleman accidentally put his grandma's glasses on while stepping out with family madame, so everything looked much larger and much closer than they actually were. Let it go, we can blame Sir Isaac Newton for this one :)

  4. @ IHM
    patience is the rule. Like sujatha says, everyone has her/his reason for getting upset. I walked slowly 'cos i cant walk fast - so i was xtremely careful. yet - -
    @ sujatha
    his reasons may be good, but in that junction, all cars move at snail pace 'cos it is an absolutely crazy junction where humans, animals, four wheelers, three wheelers and two wheelers put up with/adjust with and accommodate each other rather gracefully.

  5. You have all the reasons to be angry,and I fully understand your anguish.

    Mallus have some exceptional qualities and this is one of them.If you have a clean shirt,and a car,then they think, sky is the limit.Some people drive the car as if it they are flying an aeroplane.Everything is "Puchom" for them.They look down up on others as if they are worms!For that matter we dont have manners on anything.
    By law, if a driver sees a pedestrian on the street, the driver must stop and allow the pedestrian to cross. Even if a pedestrian waives the driver through, if the driver does not stop, he or she is subject to a moving violation.But who cares about traffic violations there?This is a place where they stick some funny looking labels on the front of every car..like " Mayor" then "Judge","Member Panchayat council","Manager Co operative Bank" and what not !! Everyone is a VIP there,except the one who walks.I have not seen this phenomenon anywhere else in the world.And just what do they mean by this? All others should stop and give way to them every where?.Anyone with a label " GOVT OF KERALA" thinks he owns the road. And where else can you see a Policeman stopping other cars on the road for MLAs and ministers to pass through?.
    Recently I saw in Euro News,the President of the Europen Union,deplaining,coming out of the air port , catching a train and then again walking the rest of the distance to his office.He was alone,carrying his bag,and all the while answering the reporters.Can we ever see such an event in our country?

    Recently,Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed his anguish over the road rage in the country at an elevated Highway function in Bangalore. Appalled by the chaos in Indian roads, Singh said people must learn road manners, how to give way to pedestrains, how to observe normal rules while overtaking, how to park and when not to blow a horn.
    It clearly reflects his anguish and it is deeply regrettable that a Prime Minister has to remind his people about road manners.But then,who cares what the Prime Minister thinks!

    Mallus act big only in his own place,but stoops down to any level and lick the bum of the lowest of the lowest Arabi,once he reaches the Gulf.Sometimes it is pathetic and repulsing to see and demeaning the whole Malayalis.

  6. I can imagine your rage on hearing the insult.
    Impatient drivers are not just among Malayalees. You can find them everywhere in India, with least concern to anything else on the road - be it pedestrians or other vehicles. But I've found equally irresponsible pedestrians - teenagers talking on phone and crossing roads leisurely, kids dashing across the road without looking, refusing to wait for signals (so are vehicles) to cross the road, ignoring footpaths, ....
    We are like that only!

  7. I got to your blog through my sister Wally's blog. Having only heard one side of the incident, I will avoid passing judgment on the matter. As someone who has driven in southern Kerala roads for several years, I vehemently believe that the average Kerala pedestrian indulges in extreme forms of jay walking, high-risk road crossing maneuvers, and has a total lack of respect for moving traffic. Having also been a pedestrian on many occasions, I have myself indulged in poor pedestrian ethos. So while I take your word for what happened, there is a reason most vehicle drivers in Kerala are seriously prejudiced against pedestrians. In general my pedestrian (couldn’t resist the word-play) recommendation to all pedestrians would be that if you see a fast moving car, do not cross – if the driver is careless or is on his or her cell-phone, there is a high chance that he or she won’t stop in time, especially if you are not built to do a quick sprint across the road. Why risk that to save a few seconds?

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  9. @ Karthik S
    for some reason you first comment did not come to my inbox- i picked it up from the dashboard.yes. it's got to be something like what you said:-). tho how poor newton fits in i dont understand:-(

    i agree that jay walking is a serious problem for motorist but one is guilty of it only at a pedestrian crossing when u violate the rule. most roads in kerala(and the one i menitioned) do not provide for the pedestrians who want to cross. they usually use their discretion. for goodness sake, we pedestrians too have our rights. after all we came first.

    yes like you said it'd be interesting to know y he behaved that way.

    btw, dont u blog for the layman?

    @ Dr Antony
    yes, these more equal VIPs should be done away with.

    @ bindu unny
    we indians r unique eh? be it pedestrians or motorists or whatever. Yet we survive!

  10. >> btw, dont u blog for the layman?

    Not sure if that was addressed to me, but no I don't.

    And yeah, an Indian pedestrian's life can be pretty daunting. No stop lights, few crossing points, rare sidewalks, rarer sidewalks that are not packed with illegal road-side stores etc. :-)

  11. Newton was the first one to study refraction of light and it is his understanding of refraction which led to lensmaker's equation :)

    Anyway, since we have initiated a conversation, let me ask you this: Do you have any influence on the syllabus that can be taught at your school? Have you heard of Matthew Lipman? Or Harry Stottlemeier's discovery? It has been observed that using his approach to education (using philosophical inquiry), can improve both verbal and analytical reasoning skills permanently in children. Let me know if you are interested in discovering him, if you haven't already done so. There are some very interesting papers I can send you.

  12. KT,

    Don't risk your life and attempt to cross at the slow junction, even when the car is approaching at a distance. The driver could be a newbie who isn't in full control of his vehicle and may not brake in time, and then we wouldn't be having this discussion at all. It's the Kaliyuga for driving courtesy in general!
    (Though, I will admit to having increased throttle and headed straight for the stupid leerers who dawdled in the middle of the road when they saw me approaching on my moped. (1)I was younger and stupider (2)They were watching and could move away in time before I hit them (3)It was worth it to see those leers wiped off their faces as they realized that I was moving faster towards them rather than slowing down.
    I wouldn't try the same trick now!)

  13. @ karthik S
    am not that influential but am in the process of trying to get access to those in charge to get then to integrate anti littering/enviro studies/ civic sense nto the syllabus.
    dont expect much success.
    guess you know that the syllabus is state controlled. Lipman's bookmight b considered too much for the kerala syllabus with its average std in english.
    but remeber seeing it mentioned in some syllabus - cant remember. am wondering if it is reco reading/project model for B ED course

    i usually associate newton with apples & laws of motion. have amnesia when it comes to these matters!

    @ sujatha
    thanks.shall take your advice. v sensible.i didnt think of a driver with learner's licence.
    btw, like the way u deal with poovalans:-)

  14. You may not believe this: one of my collegues landed in hot water for jokingly making faces at a passerby here in Dublin. He was driving and though it would be a good idea to poke at the woman he overtook while driving. She noted his car, took him to the court and he had to spent a good few bucks to get out of the mess.

    Sadly, this is not something our folks could be taught. I'm sorry to hear about this, but this goes on every day in our country. Drivers feel as if they own the road, and this is a classic example. :(


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