[[Note: This is the unedited version of my column published 24 June, 2012 in The Deccan Chronicle & Asian Age newspapers]
Do you feel stressed, worn out and defeated by traffic? Are you looking for a new route to enlightenment? The Art of Driving (AOD) philosophy can unlock secret pathways in your brain and help you absorb positive emissions from other vehicles when you are on the road. In just a few days, you will be wiping the smudges off the windscreen of your life and revelling in the beauty that is Indian traffic.
At the heart of the AOD philosophy is your faith. Do you, my friend, believe in God? Exactly how strong is your blind faith?
Take this one-minute test. Picture to the far left of a busy road, a young cyclist in a rani pink shirt and khaki pants. Imagine him flinging himself towards the right, cutting right across two luxury cars and a large truck with a brick on the accelerator. Do you believe that God will protect him as he hurtles towards the little gully of his dreams?
Next, imagine a giant water lorry heading straight at you on a narrow road. Which of you will flinch first and swerve out of the way?
If you have even the slightest doubt, if you cannot face these daily tests of your faith, you are not yet ready to face the Indian roads.
The first step to achieving the elevated, AOD state of mind is prayer. Install an idol, cross or miniature monument of your choice in your car. Before you start off on your commute, pray for five minutes. Effective prayer means that God will be on your side. Then, of course, you can drive as you wish, disregarding worldly matters such as seatbelts, airbags and Aishwarya Rai’s weight gain. Plus, you now have a higher purpose on the road, so man-made traffic rules and road conventions no longer apply.
I think it must be becoming clear to you now how millions survive Indian traffic without stress.
The next step while you are on the road is acceptance. Accept others into your fold, whether they turn into your lane from the left or the right, whether or not they sound the horn. Similarly, if you are to make a turn yourself, resist your mortal urge to check the traffic ahead, or to signal or sound the horn. Believe in yourself, believe in God, and you will be accepted. The cars will part magically to receive you, the way that the waters of the Yamuna parted for Vasudev as he carried baby Krishna.
As you journey through Indian roads, don’t forget to look for the auspicious symbols along the paths (erroneously called traffic signals). The green circle, which represents energy and the cosmos, is a talisman. If you see it, accelerate with confidence. The red circle represents good luck and tomato ketchup. Stop briefly to pay obeisance to it. You may give a quick glance of blessing at fellow worshippers coming from other directions, and then proceed on your way. We recommend that you completely disregard the yellow circle, as this seems to be some relic from the dark ages that no one remembers the use for.
You will also see lots of signs with hieroglyphics on them. Modern thought holds that these are used to convey informational messages such as “No U-turn”, “School zone, go slow” and “Khaap Panchayat ahead, take detour”. However, we at AOD believe strongly that these signs are some kind of witchcraft created by Westerners. Following these signs may lead to your car being possessed by evil spirits, which would again contribute to stress. Avoid even looking at these signs.
Put your horn to judicious use, sounding it repeatedly to the tune of your favourite mantras. You will simultaneously hear an outpouring of chanting from other devotees. Let this uplifting music calm your soul!
From time to time, you may notice people travelling on foot, and attempting to dart in between the various vehicles. These people are nothing but manifestations of maaya—illusions created by the Gods to test you. Do not get unduly distracted by them, and never do something as foolhardy as stopping for them.
And finally, enjoy yourself. Observe the changing patterns as vehicles weave in and out, admire the beauty of our Indian roads. Traffic is nothing but yet another leela of the Gods, so stop stressing and enjoy your part in these divine games. After all, you’re already in the fast lane to enlightenment. Why slow down now?