Masala Driving, English Driving

It would seem that for Pahar Singh, chaos was his kismet.

As my driver in Delhi, he weaved, he honked and he braked. His brake lights did not work, but to be fair, functioning taillights would have been waste of electricity. No one watched anyone else’s taillights and cars did not collide only by means of magnetic repulsion.

Pahar Singh created the chaos. He scripted it.

We Bangaloreans consider ourselves to be cultured and non-combative. Or maybe we are the nation’s biggest wusses. Whatever. I could not bring myself to suggest to Pahar Singh that his driving abilities were not above reproach.

So, for half the day, I sat in the back seat looking wistfully at every passing heart hospital as Pahar Singh drove me from angina pectoris to myocardial infarction. Finally, I summoned the courage to tell him that I would be happier if he were to follow road rules. Predictably, he swung around in his seat.

He asked in clipped Haryanvi, “Why! Does saab prefer ‘English’ driving?”

“Yes,” I stammered, in a dialect that swam in the confluence of Punjabi, Hindi and Braj Basha.

“No problem, sirji,” Pahar Singh said crisply, and morphed from Edward Hyde to Henry Jekyll. He made me feel like I was the q of e being chauffeured amidst the coolies.

We had two wondrously uneventful days. We bonded. We expressed disdain at many things. Delhi traffic was one. In a pensive stroke, we even wondered how some of these drivers had passed their driver’s tests.

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