Thursday, 4 February 2016

Dr Jekyll, Driver Hyde.

Ashraf and Luqman on the beach at Byndoor
Don't be deceived by this gentle soul, quietly making sandcastles on the beach with his son. Put him behind the steering wheel and point him in the direction of the highway, and he turns into a force to be reckoned with! I recall at least five or six close reckonings from our first drive together. I don't recall any from the subsequent drives, largely because I kept my eyes shut!

I was later reassured by my cousin and his brother (henceforth referred to as the Schumacher Brothers) that this style of driving is de rigeur on the national highways of India and that "everyone drives like this here". It is, apparently, the done thing if you want to arrive sooner rather than later. (The way I drive, I would probably have taken a whole day to make the one-and-a-half hour journey). I think the point is to arrive while it is still light. Or at the speed of light. Or something like that.

Drivers break the monotony of their long drive by playing frequent car games. Their favourite is one that I call "chicken", but in the local dialect is referred to as "overtaking". It is most often played against large lorries who seem to operate in pairs:  one alongside our car, trying to prevent us from passing, and the other roaring towards us from the opposite direction. The highlight of this game is when your car miraculously slips into the little gap between the two lorries, and carries on going. I simply cannot describe how my heart leapt each time we were blessed enough to experience one of these special moments.

An anti-anxiety pill slipped under the tongue (of the passenger, not the driver) helps a bit, because it makes it easier to close one's eyes and resign oneself to one's fate. Having said that, this one survived several such highway drives, and returned home to Bangalore unscathed. So perhaps the Schumacher Brothers are right after all!

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