‘The Cops Are Happy in Delhi’

Driving as a remedy for the weariness of living in a metropolis and impressions from other sights on the street

I like driving around in the city. Music is too overrated—while driving can be such a meditative and fulfilling activity as much as rock n’ roll is to many people. Driving does have a therapeutic value. It is as well a privilege of sorts, considering the shackles in my hometown located way back in one of the hinterlands of the country, where once the sun sets, the only few places you can go to are the drinking vendors uniformly scattered around the municipality area or some marijuana-friendly lanes or dreary heroin-infested intersections. It is a natural law that a matter always fills the vacuum. The extreme lack of night life, for that matter, is balanced with our reluctance to go beyond the familiar valley areas regardless of day and night. As the government labelled it for the existing armed conflict, the law and order condition is a big turn off. Besides the transport infrastructure has put the speed limit to zero. 

Back here in the capital region, the equation is different altogether. Except on ass-smacking summer days, the routes are abundant to leave the day’s worries and chill out in a bloody pretty rider’s way. The Inner Ring Road on the eastern part of the city, particularly the stretch from Sarai Kale Khan to the North Campus; the landscaped and adorned streets of Chankyapuri; and the deserted universities’ roads, to name a few, are quite a ride. At times, it is a fine experience to circle the 56-km Inner Ring Road at one go.

BUY THE TICKET, TAKE THE RIDE   The legendary comedian George Carlin jabs that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac. If we look at the gross violation of traffic signals, G Calin’s wisdom is not even worth a paise for it is only way to drive as fast as possible. By the way, how is that people obey or pretend to obey the traffic signs in main Delhi but as soon as we leave the city for the fanciful National Capital Regions like Noida and Gurgaon, it is all again a mess traffic-wise? Every morning it is a challenge to drive nonchalantly across the billboard-flooded DND Flyway but scamper in the congested intersections once we enter the other side, here Noida in this case. It is always horrible to cross the couple of junctions, for we are left with no option but to keep ‘shooting’ to hit our target and snakes through the alleyway to the working place disregarding all the green, orange and red signals.

It is no surprise in today’s world that we have to pay, and pay, and pay again as if we are provided with a favour, which the wise men term it as a service. The toll booth is one thing and it is completely another when you have a different face. I’m from Manipur and have an oriental face. Our face hardly exists in the national imagination of India; and if there is any, it is overburdened with the mainland people’s stereotypes and prejudices.

I have lost count how many cab drivers would teased me to visit the places. They would say, when we pass a street somewhere in Vasant Kunj for n example, there is a couple of sex workers from my place—most of the time they imply the place they are referring to is Kathmandu. Maybe the closest nation to mainland India is Nepal, and with the record-breaking states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar that border the only Hindu nation, many people are happy to take it for granted that Asia does not exist beyond the Himalayas or in another sense, that the populous races like that of the Chinese Hans and Zhuangs or the more popular Koreans and Japanese never come to garbage-filled places like India and elsewhere like we do. That seems to be the thinking. Yet, I’m not sure: Are these geography-challenged people of India demeaning us with their sheer ignorance or the Nepalese are working overtime for the benefit of people with epicanthic fold as a whole? We can leave it to the sociologists while we continue our rides.

LEARN TO RIDE THE HARD WAY   I was returning from Lodhi Road last evening and came across some traffic policemen. Despite my loathing for formalities, I do carry around my driving license and vehicle documents—as if accident cares for these papers. Perhaps I’m being pragmatic to carry them all around and do away with the hundred-rupee receipts for being paper-less. So far I have been doing well except on those occasions when I jump a red light, or drive while intoxicated and have to pay them anyway, with paper or without. Once a city magistrate punished me, by ordering me to pay a fine and stand inside the courtroom for a whole day. I’d admit soberly that drinking was not the problem: there was a blast at the Israeli Embassy on that day and the cops were extra-alert. Whisky is always innocent! 

At Lodhi Road or elsewhere, I don’t come across those cops everyday but every time I meet them and their ilk, it is quite a story. I have a driving licence which is issued by the government transport department in my hometown and is valid in any part of India; but the fact is that they are amused when they see I’m indeed from a part of India. There are some common drivels: that we seem not but boy, we are the sibling of the same country, that they presumed I might say I’m from Ho Chi Minh City, that India is this vast and that diverse, that I have an authentic Indian name, that they do not see not many of my folks in the city (yes, how would they—when a bulk of the oriental people are taken as Nepalese or Chinese or as immigrants like in the recent clerical blunder of the ruling government?) comparing to those folks coming to the national capital from other parts of India, and so on.

The cops are indeed happy to see that they have learnt the existence of another India while on their routine duty in a buy-one-get-one-free mode. Still everybody knows how the mainland people suck in Geography. The trend of moron-ness is uniform across the mainland societal levels. At the upper level, former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru is the perfect example: he deceived us by calling Manipur the Switzerland of India. He was alright to act too ignorant to consider the then original map as long as the idea of the Great Nation of India was raised, with help from old dorks like Sardar Vallabhai Patel and others. A real patriot, according to Bill Vaughan the American columnist, is the fellow who gets a parking ticket and rejoices that the system works. Then they found ways for their rides and now we are paying for it dearly. These shits always drive us crazy. 

PUT THE BRAKE ON   When you are either down, bored or need some adrenaline rushes, riding is the perfect solution. It is independent of your identity; it is independent of the happy cops; and it is independent of everything but the pleasure of being on the road. For missing all the good things of home, the short drives somehow make up for them in the smallest ways. Meanwhile I’m hoping someday I’ll get the chance to travel across Southeast Asia on a bike.

Ride on! 

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