Thursday, February 09, 2006

Why owning a car (and driving it) in India is bad for your blood pressure.

I have a theory as to why lots of Indians, especially in the metros have high blood pressure – I suspect that a major cause is owning a car and moreover, driving it themselves.

The stress and frustration of driving in Indian metros with people /cattle/cycles/two wheelers/autos/buses cutting across each other, driving in the wrong lane, speeding etc is sometimes too much to bear causing ones BP to go up and out of control.

My first experience of driving a car, was abroad and not in India – of course, I do have an Indian "License" which I took when I turned 18 years old. I had learned just enough "driving" to pass the test and get my license.

When I was staying with my parents, I never had a chance to drive as there was always our family driver available on call and after I got my job and moved to another city, I used to commute in my Kinetic Honda. No chance of driving a car that time either as I could not afford one.

Then I got married and was immediately posted abroad for an extended period of time – first in Japan and then in Taiwan. Though my company offered me a car, I did not take it as public transport system in these countries was excellent and never felt the need for a car.

Then, recently, I was posted to South Africa for more than a year and that is where I got stuck – there is absolutely no public transport to speak of in South Africa and whatever available was not safe. Luckily, my wife is an accomplished driver and when the company offered me a car, I took it and she became my designated "driver".

This happy existence was not to last long – my wife got pregnant and she had to return to India. I panicked. Without a car, you could not do a thing in S. A. So I had to learn fast - it was either that or starvation.

My wife became my "Guru" and she started teaching me how to drive before she left for India. I was shocked to find out that I had forgotten even the basics. I could not even remember which the clutch or the brake was. Any way, I'm a fast learner ; ) (It is another matter that I crashed my first car and the whole car had to be written off ) and learned to drive before my better half left.

It was a pleasure driving on S.A roads. Roads were good, traffic was orderly and everyone obeyed the rules. Once I even drove to Durban from Pretoria – about 600 kms in 5 hours. I fell in love with my car and the sheer pleasure of driving one. Went for long drives during the week ends, and even went on a 4 by 4 trail once.

I considered my self to be a pretty good driver.

After my S.A assignment, I was eager to drive when I was back in India. So within a few days of reaching home, I took out the car with my wife on board and started out. By the time we reached our destination, I felt drained. My face was red, I was short of breath and to top it all, my wife was cross with me for cursing everyone on the road and using all the expletives that I knew.

This happened the next time and time after that. Then I swore to myself that I will remain calm – be a "yogi" when I drive, and understood fully, the idea of detachment, forgiveness and the philosophy of believing in one's destiny as expounded by our learned ancestors.

I took up Yoga and meditation and now a days am able to drive for an extended period of time, without getting hot under the collar.
However, even now when I drive, sometimes, I can feel the anger bubble up, and the frustration build. I think it will take a long time for me to get used to being a "Yogi".


Harsha said...

don't know if you get BP, but as a pedestrian, i must be worried. since if some odd driver loses control, my life is at peril. you know, it takes five minutes to make a calculated move on mg road, bangalore. drivers of all vehecles never care red light and keep accelerating, as if road is built for their use. i seriously recommend a public transport with huge toll taxes every sub-way and fly-over.

not many drivers know the first rule of traffic to give way to pedestrians.

Curious said...

very Hillarious!...i guess my husband will agree with you.