Friday, June 10, 2011

The Road Less Troubled

Ever since my centre of operations has shifted southwards, I’ve been doing more driving in Gurgaon than ever before. And I can now expertly reveal to you the most telling difference between how people drive in Delhi and in Gurgaon.

In Gurgaon, there is no road rage.


Shocked? So was I. After all, Gurgaon appears to have the highest potential for frayed tempers while driving. Consider the facts:

1) Gurgaon is a booming (some would say exploding) young city, with a very high IPSF (Income Per Square Foot), a very high EPSF (Ego Per Square Foot), the country’s highest PSUVPSF (Premium Sports Utility Vehicle Per Square Foot) and a fairly high OCPSF (Ongoing Construction Per Square Foot). Put all this together and you should get a very high RRQ (Road Rage Quotient).

2) There are traffic jams of epic proportions out here – the width of the road at the toll plaza is greater than the length of the road our house is on in my hometown – and when that gets jammed you can call up the Guinness Book people. Hundreds of vehicles are involved, and millions of man-hours. Traffic jams take up more time in a Gurgaon-wasi’s life than strawberry jam, mixed fruit jam, g-jams and Pearl Jam put together.

3) Traffic rules often have a fairly broad interpretation. At many of the traffic signals, stopping is considered optional – and depends more on your mood than on the actual colour of the traffic light. You can overtake (and be overtaken) either from the left, or from the right, or from above, depending on the width of the road and the relative BHP of your SUV.

So, given all this, how come motorists in Gurgaon aren’t going for each other’s throats every five minutes? In Delhi, it is a widely accepted practice to rearrange someone’s face if he scratches your paint, and people understand that a dent in a car could easily result in a visit to the dentist – so why not in Gurgaon? Perplexed, I purchased a bottle of brain tonic from one of Gurgaon’s numerous well-stocked outlets and invited some seasoned residents to discuss the issue.

The answer, when we arrived at it, was a revelation.

It’s all a matter of expectations, we realized. In Delhi, people expect you to be predictable, whereas in Gurgaon no one expects you to be anything – you can be what you like. If you flash your left indicator in Delhi, people expect you to turn left. Or if you are driving in a straight line, people assume you will continue to do so. And if you do something unexpected, like stopping at a red light when there isn’t a cop around, then people get upset and reach under their seats for the trusty old baseball bat.

Gurgaon, on the other hand, has no such pre-conceived notions. The fuddy-duddy prescriptiveness that curbs creativity and shortens the life expectancy of windscreens in Delhi, does not exist in Gurgaon. Gurgaon expects you to be dynamic and entrepreneurial, and to be an independent thinker rather than a slave to convention. In the land of Free Choice, you choose whether to signal a turn or not. And whether to go clockwise or anti-clockwise round a roundabout. Spontaneity is not frowned upon, and playfulness at the wheel is seen only as a sign of exuberance and bonhomie.

The point is that since people don’t expect you to behave in any prescribed fashion, they aren’t disappointed or upset when you do something entirely different. Like reading the newspaper on the way to work even when it’s the chauffeur’s day off. Or taking a sip of coffee without first putting down the hamburger, while your cellphone is still tucked between shoulder and cheek.

We love fresh fruit in Gurgaon and don’t mind it a bit if a motorist suddenly stops his car in the road in order to buy some. Ditto for fermented fruit. Gurgaon isn’t uptight; and appreciates creativity in all its forms, including driving. Manoeuvres at which people would raise eyebrows and middle fingers in Delhi will probably just get you a thumbs-up and an indulgent smile here.

It’s nice not having to share the road with ill-tempered people. And in Gurgaon if you ever feel a bout of anger coming on, you can easily pause at a convenient mood elevation centre and sip some brain tonic till you’re feeling better. To such a laissez-faire approach, I have only one thing to say – cheers.

15 comments:

  1. People, please feel free to write appreciative comments. You could also win a trip for two to a very special place.

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  2. Which is why, as a woman, I love to drive around in Gurgaon!!!!
    Well written

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  3. Ahhhh....a very interesting perspective I must say :-)

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  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  5. Toooooo good. Suddenly I can understand the crazy traffic of Gurgaon better.
    Deep insight !!

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  6. A guy from Delhi going on about road etiquette - pot calling the kettle black! The difference, if any, is the density of thullas my friend.

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  7. Well written piece.
    Love the wit and sarcasm.
    Totally agree with the very original explanation to the perplexing situation.
    It seems brain-tonic really works !!
    Must tell you, eversince I started driving an (unfortunately, borrowed) Scorpio around town, somehow people here automatically expect me to be much more unpredictable than I was driving my sedan. I scratched a nice small car (honest mistake.....accenuated by my driving skills), but despite being at a red-light, the owner only asked me to be more careful. I tend to do the same on my (well scratched) sedan. Gurgaonites don't think its worth getting out of their vehicle to express their angst or displeasure. Stares and passing advice does fine.
    Gurgaon is cool !!

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  8. very nice Sid, makes me miss you humour and one-liners! love the EPSF observation! and about free to signal or not!
    come down to blr - you will have more interesting blogs to write - and if you compare the roads to your iimb days, probably a Britannica volume

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  9. R u on Twitter ?
    If so, pls post ur handle.
    I am on @aashishsehgal

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  10. Aashish, glad you enjoy driving in Gurgaon too. Sorry, I'm not Twitting - not sure I'd have enough to say often enough. Thanks for your interest in this, though.

    Parag, thanks for the brickbat - was anticipating some mixed responses to this one. Which city do you drive in?

    Barleyjuice

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  11. Great piece... Replace Gurgaon with Bangalore, and its the same.

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  12. Hi Reshma, nice to hear from you - it's been a long while. Was briefly in Bangalore a while back - hated the traffic. It's changed so much.

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