As a motorist in Pakistan you must have a diverse range of car maneuvering tricks up your sleeve. Otherwise you are rickshaw dust. Every morning when you step into the driver’s seat you must chant to yourself “I must earn my passage” many times over. Say it as if your life depended on it. Courtesy and good will are hollow gestures. Don’t let them bog you down as you try to make inroads through the morning rush hour.
When you exit your driveway remind yourself that you are the pilot of your plane, you blaze over mortals like the scourge of the heavens. The inhabitants of the roads are nothing but turbulence to your wings. Cut through them as you must. Don’t make eye contact with these beings that could not possibly fathom the urgency of your flight.
They are too busy trying their hand at a honking adaptation of Beethoven’s Fifth. To their credit the only thing they do manage to reproduce is a high pitched note that is akin to the resounding death knell on judgment day. This strengthened by one noisy chord after another. Bring down your fist on your own musical instrument and let it resonate through the ears of the debris in your way. Let it clear the musical landscape for your own debut.
Guide your plane’s nose through every possible orifice you can find in this wall of locusts. Every day they descend upon these paths and devour every inch of road they can find. It is this plague that is the cause of your tardy timesheet at work and all this traffic congestion. Spray them with the pesticide of your delinquent driving. If you are going to get through them you cannot be bashful about rubbing shoulders with such a swarm. Let your side mirrors brush with theirs and reminisce of your dodgy flirting at high school. A brush here, a few stolen glances there. You triumphantly pass one victim after another and wink at them to seal the encounter.
It is unbecoming of decency and down right rude for God’s lamb but that kind never survives out here. If you want to get ahead you must slide one foot in someone’s way and politely look away as if you are unaware of where your feet are taking you. Don’t be shy; you’ve done it before at the bank, post office and every other place you have found this ridiculous concept of queues. Take off your sheep skin and reveal your furry hide. Cutting through those long lines and annexing positions as if you were just returning to your spot. This is our creed, we believe in only one ‘right-of-way’— our own. You should banish the rest to oblivion.
Slide through these slow moving cows. Bark at them like a cowboy rounding up his dim witted livestock. Disregard any glares and faint mutterings that you thought you heard from these farm animals. You must reach the head of this pack. Honk your horn and steer your vehicle through like the restless being you are.
Drive with an intent to pillage and plow through any traffic rule conceived or endowed upon you when you got your driver’s permit. Drive not to kill but to shock and frighten. Accelerate through vehicles like lightening through slow moving clouds. Nudge your brake pedal only when there is no other place to steer towards.
When you reach the traffic intersections take a breather and stop a while to gaze upon the mesmerizing hand gestures of the traffic wardens. The waves of traffic come to a halt and hold their position as if anticipating the passage of the Israelites through the Red Sea. These miracle wielding beings are the newest addition to the ever growing useless army of the long arm of the law. They are in their prime and not quite as bulky as the earlier models. There have been a few sightings of chubby versions managing traffic on the bigger roads. Give them some time they’ll fatten up nicely in a year or so.
You can also unearth these fine creatures at road blocks as well. They are quite handy when it comes to rearranging a person’s travel plan for them and convincing them to bugger off. They let you glare and drive away feeling like a hopeless laboratory rat in a sadistic science experiment. Give it up, they say, you’ll never find the cheese. Not when we keep changing the maze.
With some sweet talk and a trifle 300 rupee they can offer you an elevated moment or two as your vehicle is mechanically teleported six feet into mid air. But beware the turbulent journey back to the road, some paying customers have complained of landing right side up or scratched and dented (or both).
The decommissioned and semi-retired blue versions of these units have since been kept in a storage ware houses near town. They are dumped in dark containers in heaps and piles. The VIPs scoop them out of this huge box and throw them into police trucks whenever they travel to and from the airport or whenever they feel like socializing and making condolence trips to some obscure neighborhood.
It is a bit melancholic to see such money guzzling figures of authority being reduced to mere decorative items punctuating the road side every 500 meters. They were of much better entertainment value when they use to stop you by the road side and casually detain you to try and illicit money to bury the matter there and then. Such incidents use to make for heart warming dinner conversations. Ah yes, the days of pimping the traffic book seem to be all but forgotten at times.
Now these blue whales only migrate to traffic lanes twice a week. They are booted onto the road like pieces of air cargo dumped on the tarmac. They stand there like misplaced manikins, erupting to life whenever an approaching police siren wails. It seems their souls can only be resurrected when an entourage of VIPs blazes by.
Yet as the police trumpets proclaim the approach, time stands still and the world stops. Even the birds seize to chirp and fly about. Hold your breath and anticipate the passage of Zeus and his cohort of demi-gods. It is a sanctimonious and a vital part of your morning commute. Their willingness to take to the roads and ride amongst us is a lesson in humility. We as hospitable beings must stand waiting in honor for this blessed moment.
Office slaves aside, even the ailing souls in ambulances must cling to life in wait of these majesties to travel through. It is widely believed that the angels of death would never take a life in such a state. They would rather fall from grace than intrude on this epiphany. Fire brigades resign to the fate of their doomed victims, for who can stop the sun from shining, the clouds from moving and a fire from burning? Those chaps had it coming anyway. Some commuters turn back and call in sick at work. Others call their late co-workers to give them the good news.
It is such leadership that unites us in our chaos and allows us to stop and smell the car exhaust to better appreciate the quality of life we enjoy today.