By Siddharth Prasad
I’ve had it up till here with people saying that Delhi’s drivers are a rude and uncultured lot. It’s simply not true. Well, ‘rude’ may be true, but ‘uncultured’ definitely not. Delhi’s drivers have, in fact, a demonstrably literary bent of mind. And as proof of same I point to the pervasive influence of Harry Potter.
Surprised? Be not so. No city in the world has drawn deeper or wider inspiration from the writings of Ms. Rowling than the car-driving populace of our national capital.
If you know what to look for, you can see the influence in the littlest of things – the way a car stops at a traffic signal, for instance. As any Potterian can tell you, if you want to get anywhere Diagon Alley is the way to go. And that’s exactly how it is at every traffic signal in Delhi. Consider this. You want to turn right, but the signal is red when you reach it; so you stop at the stop line. The vehicle behind you will not stop behind you, but will come up on your left till it is half a car-length ahead and then ‘by chance’ half-turn rightwards, till it stops diagonally across your car. Brilliant manouevre. You’re effectively blocked and can’t go anywhere till the diagonal driver does. Thank you, Harry.
Then there is the playing of Quiddich on the roads. There’s nothing subtle about that. Bludgers to right of you, bludgers to left of you, bludgers behind you and you’re quaffled before you know it. Three chasers and a brace of seekers ardently pursuing the cute little snitch in the lo-ride jeans riding pillion on a Nimbus 2010. And if her boyfriend so much as bleats a protest, a bunch of beaters appear magically to quaffle him into bludgery.
That’s in the daytime. Post-midnight, of course, you can enjoy the numerous nocturnal variants of Quiddich Extreme – currently popular are Glenfiddich, Scroodabich and Teri****vich.
And if that isn’t enough to prove my case, there is the sinister presence of He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named. The powerful protector of every transgressor pulled up by the law on Delhi’s roads. ‘Bas ek phone lagaoonga’ and ‘Do you know who my father is?’ are just two of the many phrases used to refer to Old Voldy. I’ve never seen him, but I hear of him everywhere and the symptoms of his presence are unmistakable.
Further proof : what about all the wonderful spells that are uttered when two opposing drivers roll down their car windows? I would love to mention some of them here but I am told they must not be repeated lightly, especially before an unprepared audience. They’re that potent.
Still, many people don’t agree with me. They claim that the Harry Potter books are of recent vintage, whereas Delhi-ites have been displaying these traits for considerably longer. I wouldn’t know, I’m of recent vintage myself. But this much I can tell you – the nuanced behaviour I have described here is too complex and sophisticated to be cavalierly dismissed as mere uncultured rudeness.
This is evolved stuff, and these are inspired performances. And if you think otherwise, you’re the philistine.