Saturday, May 07, 2005

Road research

My faith in the vileness of human nature has been shaken. Unbeknownst to all but a few, I’ve been conducting a personal little experiment while driving from home to office and back, and the results threaten to sway the foundations of my cynicism.

Ever since I began driving I’ve been fascinated by the horniness of Delhi’s drivers. I’ve written edits about it in the tabloid I once worked for, I’ve blubbered about it to friends, I even posted a blog once suggesting that disabling the car horn is the perfect way to cause a nervous breakdown in an average Delhi driver. Well, what I’ve been doing the past three or four days is: each time the vehicle behind me goes into frenetic tooting mode, I slow my car down a bit (or take my own sweet time to move if a red light has just turned green) and give the driver a purposeful and lingering look through my rear-view mirror (just long enough so that the point is made, even if he can’t see my expression), while simultaneously making a flamboyant “what ho, dude?” gesture with my right hand.

The results so far have been shocking and indicate that all is not yet known about the human animal. All this while we’ve been told that Delhi drivers have not a vestige of shame or civility left in them. We hear stories of road rage, of the tiniest sparks creating vast flares of antagonism. And yet, of the 37 drivers unwittingly polled in my experiment, as many as 27 - a mind-blowing 72.9 per cent - did nothing more than avert their eyes and look sheepish when faced with the knowledge that someone had been offended by their honking. The impression I got was that using the horn is so much a part of their mental make-up that they just do it mechanically, without realising it might be insulting to other people. They’re honking not at sentient, sensitive human beings but at moving cuboids of metal. And when presented with a human face, they cower down.

That’s the 27, anyway. Of the remaining 10, the break-up was roughly this (it’s difficult to keep taking notes on a busy road when you’ve also been provoking the driver behind you):

- Three looked right back at me and mimicked my hand gesture while their eyebrows rose and fell at a surprisingly speedy rate. I’ll be called regionalist for this, but I suspect they were Bengali.

- Four kept up the furious honking while gazing intently at the back of my car, altogether failing to notice what I was doing.

- Two threw their hands up violently, glared and muttered (or lip synched) imprecations involving mothers and sisters.

- And only one actually got worked up enough to open his car door slightly and indicate he was coming across to have a word with me (but luckily the lights had just changed)

So, does my modest, unscientific research prove that people are basically nice when you really get to know them, like Atticus Finch said? I hope not, but some of my hidebound beliefs have developed cracks and will need serious repair work. Meanwhile, the research will continue: next in line is an experiment that includes manouevring my car in such ways that the buses around me will find themselves unable to shift lanes suddenly. If I live expect a blog about it soon.

(P.S. No earnest corrective comments please about the use of the word "horniness")


  1. Owww yerrsss, we Bongs jest lurrvvv you too, honeybunch!

    Liked your ramble about journalism and writing.

    Question - should it be blog etiquette to post a comment only on the most recent post? Or should one asume that a blogger comes back to old posts to check for comments? (like a murderer coming back to the body or a tiger coming back to its maggot-ridden kill)


  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. et tu jabberwocky?
    odd, but i too posted one on traffiic ettiquette in my blog recently, but unlike you, conducting behavioural experiments,was too disgusted at the traffic in bangalore to notice. (

    love your posts by the way especially the murakami one :)

  4. I recently was in Delhi and I must admit with roads like that I saw I thought the traffic was terrible. The honking business I did not note, but the lane cutting - I am awaiting a piece on that and yes I will say you are putting your life on line with that experiment. Where are your pandus anyway? They are nowhere to be seen.
    Random Observations: 1) in Delhi the scooters drive as if they are Schumachers! Oh and the whole Time Ticker on some signals was super duper hilarous, does it help?

  5. Why just delhi and bangalore? Mumbai is also going to the dogs! People just toot their horns for no rhyme or reason... to annouce their arrival.. to magically clear their way or what the heck.. I have a horn n am gonna blow it...!! cars without horns may actually mean fewer cars.. on our already over burdened roads...

  6. JAP: You do know I'm an honorary Bong myself, don't you? ;) But to answer your comments question: any comment on my blog, even if it's on a post from 6 months ago, is automatically forwarded to my Yahoo mail. So there's no question of missing any comments. Go to your blog template settings, you can do the same thing quite easily there.

    Ashanka: Thanks. My official line is that I write the long, analytical rants on books and movies only for myself. But I do still feel a slight tinge when no one comments on them. So always good to know that someone does read them.

    J: Cars without horns might also mean fewer people - because of all those nervous breakdowns...

  7. One of your illustrious predecessors in the features section ran another experiment; parking in no-parking towaway zones AND PUTTING HIS HOOD UP BEFORE DISAPPEARING. He only got towed-away once in 16 attempts.


  8. surprise, surprise.
    Kindly carry on your study and let us see if these numbers are consistent in a larger study.
    I, for one, am borderline shocked. Most of my "what is it?!" hand gestures were met with similar yet more vicious gestures and many raised eyebrows, synced lips and opening card doors.
    Sometimes, all together.

  9. Just imagine what your good old friend Rohit Wadhwaney would have done to you had you played the same trcik to him... He would have probably screwed your car the hind and in Dharam Garam's ishtyle would have said, Kutte Kamine...Chutiya hai kya?

  10. Well, Rohit Wadhwaney definitely read the comment and I am so sure the comment's by Vikram Thapa. Who else could know me so well??!! Lol...
    Anyway, well, just to tell you the extent of my road rage. Back in Delhi i used to pull over, get out of my car and slap cows that were parked in the middle of the road...
    I miss those times...

  11. Heck yeah, the horniness of it all! In the days when I travelled by rickshaws and autos, I would make a big show of lifting my arms adn plugging my ears with elbows sticking out at 180 degrees so that the drivers could take note of their pest-ness without me saying a word (in auto too, since all horny - i mean honky {actually could be the other thing too} - scooterwalas make a point to cock head almost inside the auto to check ANY woman passenger out). Now that I drive, I try make a show of pointing to the RED light, but have proved myself too dim-wittedly slow for it. Once, a man kept honking behind me a red light, so I thought I'd stick my hand out and point my index finger dramatically at the red light in super cool fashion. By the time I'd rolled the window down and extracted my hand with poised finger out of it to point at the light, it turnd green and I looked really stupid :) he must'v gone 'Women Drivers', I'm sure.