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")