Raging on the Road

Road Rage

All of us have experienced it at some point of time or the other. Many of us have been guilty of it and some of us even admit to it: Road rage. But now it is reported that a common brain parasite could place those infected with it at the risk of aggressive behaviour and thus be responsible for those incidences of road rage.

Does that mean that those who let the expletives or the fists fly on the road will now rush to be tested for the parasite — or will they try to absolve themselves of all blame for rudeness and volatility with the convenient ‘I’ve been infected’ excuse?

Having driven a two-wheeler on chaotic streets in many cities and towns in India for decades, I have naturally not been immune to a strong desire on several occasions to hop off my vehicle and have a right royal row with someone I feel had cut in unnecessarily, pushed me off the road for no reason, etc. However, I usually refrained from that and instead muttered under my breath and threw the most deadly and venomous looks possible at the offenders — and kept going. One, because it was just too much effort to stop and pull my two-wheeler onto its stand, pull off my helmet and all the other paraphernalia I wore to protect myself from the sun/dust/fumes from the exhausts of other vehicles and two, because I was sure that my murderous looks had done their job, burning through the mask and scarf and glasses I sported and landing squarely on the offender’s back.

Some of the others in my family were not so restrained, however.

Father was vocal about the drivers around him when he took the car out. For years, while he had a police flag flying on his car, he didn’t have to worry about anyone getting too close or cutting him off, especially when he or his driver was in uniform. But once he retired, he had to muck in with the rest of the traffic and we, who were seated beside him or in the back seats, were treated to all manners of expletives — and Father never apologised with a muttered ‘Pardon my French’ …

By then, we were old enough not to have Mother hold her hands over our ears and we giggled and counted how many times Father had lost his temper and when we realised that even a short trip into town had us into double digits, we started to play our own little games: What would Father say this time? The one who got the most correct guesses would get to decide the next day’s menu / have the largest share of the pudding / or whatever was our fancy of the moment.

All that colour and controversy and excitement on the road soon became a way of life and none of us thought anything of it. We certainly didn’t urge Father to stay calm and not ‘blow a blood vessel’. We took it as part of the turf and it was therefore a surprise when I realised that my spouse was not cut of the same cloth as Father — or the rest of us in the family.

He kept his cool — everywhere — and driving around with him at the wheel was peaceable … and almost dull.

Obviously that took a lot of getting accustomed to: Where was the colour, the variety, the originality when it came to saying what ought to be done to those who overtake from the wrong side, zig-zag and shift lanes unnecessarily, roll up unconcernedly from the opposite end on a one-way street …

How could he take it all in his stride and just keep going?

Well, now I know. He’s immune to that parasite.

Cheryl Rao is a journalist based in India.