Numerous road rage incidents in the recent past in Delhi has led to the capital being titled as a hotheaded city.
Most people must have seen posters reading, “Beware of dogs” outside many residences. But one might need such posters for Delhiites too nowadays. If you are wondering why would something like that be required, then we ask you to try bumping into a Delhiite, even if by accident. The consequences might be no less fatal than trying to pull off a stunt. Try at your own risk!
Delhiites have often been described by many as downright violent when it comes to their driving skills. While the validity of a blanket statement like this might be a matter of debate, there have been numerous instances when Delhiites were seen having dangerous outbursts on road. Most recently, a person was thrashed by a group of city residents following a road rage incident in Punjabi Bagh after the car in which he was travelling collided with another.
This incident is not the only one this month. Steel Authority of India chief Anil Kumar Chaudhary fell prey to a similar rage while returning home a few weeks back. According to the police, his car had rammed into another car with four occupants. Another such incident was witnessed in July 2017 where three men chased a 20-year old youth for several hundred metres before beating him to death.
A recent initiative by the Delhi police aims to reduce the incidents of road rage and bus mishaps. The initiative involves training bus drivers to be more compassionate and teaching them to be careful on the roads during traffic. But this solution is not enough if one aims to completely uproot the problem.
Fast and furious
City-based psychologist, Shaira points out to a recent study conducted which showed that most incidents of road rage happen in the evening and they mostly occur in the summer than in the winter. She then deduces, “Road rage is a culmination of aggression and vent-up anger which starts from traffic, work and relationship stress. The roads become a vent for your frustration.”
Dr Malini Saba, another psychologist, adds that India has started seeing time as a major priority, and because of that people seem to be in a maximum hurry once they get into their vehicles. “They have the sheer desire to be ahead of the vehicle ahead and not to allow other vehicles to overtake, and this I think overrides all safety logic and road courtesy,” Saba says.
Mind the language
When asked about whether the issue of road rage has any relation to the living conditions in the capital, both the experts replied in affirmative. Malini says, “However, it’s more compounded by increasing work pressure and relationships stress that are increasing to a dangerous level. Some people can deal with it while some can not.” Shaira further adds, “The road conditions, traffic, people not following the traffic rules and many others all come together. There is no one reason for road rage.”
Another concerning behaviour trait is the rudeness that can be noticed often in the way Delhiites talk. Shaira comments, “It is cultural. When one transits into bigger cities, there is a huge gap in the way these people interact with each other. People’s lives in metropolitan cities are so stressful and busy that if someone speaks to us or says something to us may not be rude but we may perceive it as rude.”
Excuse my entitlement
One phrase that you must have heard while living in Delhi is, “Tu janta nahi, mera baap kaun hai.” (You don’t know who my father is). Entitlement is a key factor when it comes to such rage. Shaira explains, “We, as people living in metropolitan cities, do feel that we are entitled and there is a lot of cultural history that makes us feel that we are above others. We live in a country where there is a lot of elitism and classism where we think we are better than them because we are financially more stable.”
Mala adds, “The ferocious sense of entitlement that the rich people in Delhi carry with them all the time has helped to augment these incidents. Generally, entitled people have no or very little regard for the rights of others.”
Inflicting masculinity or ‘mardangi’ on people is another issue that contributes to this mess. Mala says that road rage incidents are “heavily related to masculinity” and comes with social norms and behaviour patterns of an individual largely formed at a young age. She further adds, “In most of India, men maintain an invisible entitled position from birth, which allows them and their masculinity to proceed unchallenged. This leads to various social conflicts.”
Chhavi Bakaria, an academician, recalls her experience of driving home from work once when a van driver tried to overtake her from the wrong side. When she was unable to give him the way to pass through, the driver rammed his car on hers. “Since his speed was slow, there wasn’t much damage and I was able to control my car and he just sped away,'' she explains.
Hotheaded or not
Does this kind of behaviour prove that all Delhiites are hotheaded? City residents don’t like to generalise. Vishal Jaiswal, an executive opines, “There are all kinds of people that exist. But in a metropolitan city where things are fast-paced, hotheadedness is bound to happen.” Chhavi believes that since the last 2-3 years the traffic on roads has increased. “I attribute it to a lot of the cab services that have come in. The car density has definitely increased over the last few years. Given that, there is an increase in traffic and people are becoming increasingly impatient, because of traffic,” says Chhavi.
While people in Delhi are unable to control their impulses due to excess pressure and the stress they carry while driving, they are not completely unapologetic. “If you look closely all of them feel a tremendous amount of guilt over their act after the rage wave. This is where one needs to spend time and energy to control one's impulses,” Malini concludes.