Like other select young, successful and rich men around the world , I drive to work every day.Windows rolled up.AC cooled.FM playing.Laptap bag on the back seat.The normal setting.
It takes me half hour to get to my office in Gurgaon, time which I judiciously invest in planning how to avoid the boss during the day,how many coffee breaks to take that day,and what songs to download in office.Ah yes , and I spend time standing still in the middle of a sea of cars,bikes,tractors and trucks at the third most common thing on indian roads after potholes and lazy cows- the traffic signals.
Now , when the light is red ,it is a strangely empty phase of your life. Like those phases in the elevator,Loo or a bad date,when you need to just wait till it gets over.You can do a number of equally useless things.You can stare at the "Horn Please Ok"/"Road kee Rani"/"Keep Distance" painted in dirty yellow colors on the posterior of the truck ahead of you.You can check your hair in the rear view mirror ,though its a rather girly thing to do. Or , like the typical irritating and nosey indian male, you can stare at other people waiting in their cars around you.Which is what I do.
Strangers.Young men.Families.Women in their 30s.Headed to office.Tapping fingers on the steering wheel.Impatiently.Few relaxed.Most hurried.Their lives forcibly paused for those few moments till the light flickers to yellow .And then green , to signal the resumption of life as they know it.
Now, maybe I am one of those people who sterotype people.You know , the kind of guy who thinks every bengali wants to participate in a strike atleast once a week and every north eastern guy is born with a black belt holding up his diaper and every Indian living south of Madhya Pradesh worships Rajnikanth.Because whenever I look around at people in their cars at the traffic signal ,there are some typical kinds I find:
The Corporate Honcho
40ish year old.Balding head.Smart black business suit.He reads a Business Newspaper through his gold rimmed glasses as the powerful AC whirrs silently in his Honda Accord.A uniformed driver holds the steering wheel.Even the driver looks well fed and bathed.He belongs to the upper strata of drivers.Not like the shabby and wiry auto drivers who dig noses and smell like Harbhajan's vest after his ten overs.Class drips from the car and everything in it.But for a man so rich ,the guy reading the newspaper looks as uncomfortably stiff as an electricity pole (To be honest,my first thought was to compare the stiffness to that of something else.I know you know.)
He looks a bit grumpy.Like a guy who had too many mooli ke paranthe last night and woke up this morning to find the flush was broken.Maybe his son doesnt listen to him.Maybe he is worried about closing that all important deal with the Japanese.I dont know.But I dont want to be this guy when I get old.I know this much.
Meet the College guy, who has been described as the "Ameer baap ki bigdi aulaad" by Bollywood since stone age.The kind which bullies bespectatcled nerds and ogles at Giggly girls at college.The car won't be very big here , unless Daddy is too lenient.Generally a Santro/Swift/Esteem.The back windshield plastered with stickers which say 'Speed Demon'/ 'Extreme Speed'/'No Fear' and other phrases with similar philosophy.Infectious Punjabi/Hip Hop music blaring from the speakers.And , a lot of dents and craters on the car body as if the car substituted for a Pakistani , when an angry ,Handpump toting Sunny Deol could not find one.
Finding him at the signal on my way to office is not easy due to two reasons-
A.He does not get up this early in the morning.
B.Even if he gets up and gets ready ,you need a tank or a Haryana Police Hawaldar to make him stop at a traffic signal.
I think all the female drivers - Young,old,trendy,homely,fat,slim,etc etc should be grouped in one category, as I have done. Because in spite of their diversity in appearences and lifestyles ,they share that one common binding force in the matters of driving a car - They are all life threatening to the rest of the people on the road.Specially if they are on their way to a Discount Sale.
Don't get excited and organise a morcha yet.I know Sunita Williams went to space and did things like floating upside down there.I know Chak De India is a hit and we loved when the girls won.But pardon me , for I speak from personal experience.For one,women are extreme drivers.Either they drive very slow.So slow , Manmohan Singh in a frog race would overtake that car.Or , they will go fast like they got a pregnant friend on the back seat who is seven minutes away from delivering.
They would utilise the waiting time at the signal in pouting their lips at the rear view mirror.Checking if slight wrinkles at the eye corners are still there.Young girls who have a boyfriend ( Who doesn't,these days? Contact me.) may manage to send a cheesy sms before the light goes green and they are let loose on the society again.
If you love life , stay away from them.
Call Centre Cabs
I don't know how things are in other parts of the world.But in Gurgaon,the sight is as common as thumkas in a Bhojpuri movie.White Qualis or Innova.Young men and women cramped inside.Office cards hanging around their necks.Tired eyes.Crumpled clothes.These are the Sams & Jims and Marks of India who work in the Call Centres of Gurgaon , which outnumber the entire population of Alaska and Ibizza put together.Tired after a night of explaining how to switch on that washing machine to super dumb people in the USA ,these youngsters just lie slumped at the signal,unable to move because of lack of energry and space in the cramped vehicle.The drivers in this case,though mildly dangerous , are still angels when compared to women.
Though in very few professions you to get to spend the night with each other ,this car looks more like a sleeping lounge than anything else.
Young,sophisticated,rich,mannered and elegant men
These are men in their twenties who cheated in their exams and got into good Business schools and are now young managers in Big Companies.They dont look tense like the corporate honchos in the Accords since they havent got all those heavy duty tasks yet.They dont look tired like the call center guys since they got back early from the office last night claiming tummy pain and enjoyed a prolonged and refreshing sleep after the India Australia match.These are the perfect,most balanced and most wonderful men anyone can expect to see at a traffic signal,or on the planet , for that matter. Incidentally, I belong to this group.You could have guessed that from the adjectives ,anyway.
You see,trying to notice the different people waiting with you for those few moments at a signal is like trying to stuff Mayawati in a butterfly net.Different people.Different lives.Different emotions.Stuff above is as inadequate as my answers to the class X chemistry question paper.But I need to shift the gears and go now.The light just turned green.