The Devil Drives the Driver
Why do perfectly normal men behave like monsters once they are behind the wheels of a car? Why somebody who is never in a hurry to meet any deadline either at home or in office suddenly decides to join the line of dead on our highways? What happens when a man is behind the wheels of a machine? Looking at the way some of us drive on our desi highways you tend to question is the man driving the machine or the monster is driving the man?
Genghis Khan created and ruled over larger contiguous land empire ever. Much bigger than Alexander who started from west and conquered east, while many moons later Genghis Khan and his hordes started from East and did exactly what Alexander did.
Both men started as small time chieftains and rose to be called great in their respective civilizations. Their strategic advantage? Agility and speed against the mighty armies of bigger empires, which were big in numbers but slow to move.
This equine agility and power gave the world two of its greatest warriors, who left a river of blood, weeping widows, over fed vultures and a sprinkling of gene pool leading of mixing of races across the Eurasian land mass and various people laying claims ancestry to Mongol or Greek gene pool even today.
The agility and power to these armies was provided by domesticated Equus ferus caballus or the humble horse, who though blessed with almost mystical powers, still accepts man as his master leading to one of the most beautiful inter-species bond.
Ever since those horse power days a man and his mount are considered to be epitome of power, emperors in India performed Ashwamedh Yagna, while scientists in west decided to measure power in terms of Horse powers. Today horses are confined to racetracks reversing fortunes in few minutes or in remote villages are beasts of burden, along with their equine cousins the mules and donkeys. A donkey is able to carry more load is much lower to keep but still is a subject of ridicule while a horse is worshiped and celebrated in every culture. Is it because of the looks? No dear reader it is purely because of the speed that a horse is able to achieve and suddenly increase the reach of a man, making him feel one with the winds.
Today except for some introduced populations in Mongolia the land of Genghis Khan there are no real wild horses, but plenty of wild men, who have graduated to cars from horses. As millenniums changed the mount of the man metamorphosis into motorcycle and cars, but still their power is measured in Horse power. But with all the muscle that the sons of mares had they had a physical limit that the riders had to learn to respect. A kind of natural limit to how fast one could go, distances were measured in how much a horse could travel in a day and so during the reign of Ashoka the great highways has Sarai, that offered much-needed rest to the tired steeds and the rider.
With cars and bikes physical limits were enhanced beyond human imagination and today’s car can run at speeds that no horse or even a cheetah can match. The metal has won over muscle, but as the physical barrier was broken so did the psychological bond among the man and his mount. But that instinct once you are riding or driving is still around for some reason the moment we are behind a driving wheel, we are a different beast, an urge to gallop raising adrenalin in the veins. The boundaries between adventure and danger are blurred and we are neither bothered by our own safety nor of others on road. Just like everything else we have taken the onus to abuse the power that we get in our powerful cars.
Rather than learning from our powerful friends the horses who know how to control the power they possess, we humans chose to abuse the power that is bestowed on us once we mount a horse or a car.
As somebody who was busy watching cricket match or another round of drinks with buddies in bar, you now want to make up for the lost time and once the rubber meets the road we are in a hurry like never before.
While I am no psychologist but my understanding is that those earlier primal urges when our ancestors mounted a horse return and we believe we are invincible and need to conquer new lands, show the lesser mortals who the real big boss is.
And every time we are on road it is a
racetrack, no let me correct myself it is a battle field and new kingdoms need to be conquered, how dare that puny little car/auto/cycle cut my path for I am the lord of the Roads, the raging bull in me can not be stopped . This cop who earns less than cost of my tires how dare he stop me for a speeding ticket ? Does he not know I have a direct hotline to 7 RCR , 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and 10 Downing St.
A car is a wonderful invention, giving us our own little moving breathing cocoon and we become one with the same. The car is an extension of our mind, body and soul and the horse power that the car has is our power, nothing can come in our way now. For others the car is the beloved, from the monstrous 18 Wheeler to the luxurious hatchback the car is referred to as “Gaddi”, a feminine form. And how dare somebody not allow my beloved a right of passage on the road? Thus the road rage, a guy not letting you pass or taking 1/100th of a second to zoom on the red light is an absolute moron and his right to spread his genes should be taken away by clobbering his manhood to save the human species. (Translate it in Hindi at your own peril)
While not all of us are like that it takes only one speeding driver on a road to cause havoc and put life and limbs in danger. But friends times have changed and we are no longer on the road to go and win a kingdom, all you are going for is to buy some groceries or attend an office meeting, that will any way kill you to death by boredom.
So why this death wish on road? Why the devil possesses the driver the moment he is behind the wheels ?
While I was working on ideas for this post for the The Nissan Safety Driving Forum contest from Indiblogger I wondered why we behave the way we behave on the road. Why so much honking, overtaking, mad rush to speed, only to get stuck at the next traffic signal?
Well there are many reasons from purchased driving licenses without appearing for any kind of test, with help of touts to parents that hand over car keys to minor kids who think since they can drive on their X box and PSP they can drive on the road too. But some where I feel the car companies are equally responsible for kindling this urge to speed on the road. While this contest urges us the consumers to take the onus of driving safely, I also want to ask the car manufacturers from around the world why you have to showcase that your cars can do wonders on the road.
Every other car ad you see it highlights that you have a speed monster under you and now the roads, the pedestrians or anybody don’t matter. Just get behind the wheel and Vroom. In a country where average highway speed is 30 KM per hour, we are sold cars with the catch line:
0-60 in X seconds.
And when the drivers want to test it invariably leads to accidents for no road is an island of solitude as shown in the advertisements.
In one ad a guy reaches his girlfriend screaming on him from a theater before he can finish a slice of pizza, in another a whole family is enjoying a ride (that begins to make you believe that the car also functions like a bedroom on the road) that has left their hair disheveled because of the speed.
While in some other ads you see cars with drivers who have with no respect for laws of physics taking the might of Himalayan curves and streams littered with stones.
Let me ask this even at the cost of losing this competition how different are these car ads from the cigarette ads of 90 or the deodorant ads of today where one puff / spray and the women of whole neighborhood and some from other planets also start slithering suggestively.
As Nissan Safety Driving Forum has taken this initiative about so like typical pehle aap mentality that we desis like to practice and preach, let me urge the sponsors of this contest Nissan how about some pioneering advertising that does not asks you to unleash the animal in you. But like the captain of most flights announce “Sit Back, Relax & Enjoy the Ride”, may be a few folks like me will follow the same and make sure that the message is driven home that road safety and etiquette is every drivers’ responsibility and cannot be taken lightly.
While on my side I promise: Not to honk, or drive rashly as I have no monsters to slay or kingdoms to conquer and the only woman I need to impress married me when I did not even own a car.
Drive Safely for we have a choice! To let the devil over take us or we over take the devil.
Disclaimer: At most places this post refers only to men as they are involved in most of the accidents not because women are better drivers, but simply because of statistics that in India more men drive compared to women. But if the premium demanded for women driven cars in second-hand market is any indicator, I do feel if this changes we may see a reduction in fatal and serious accidents if more women drive.
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