Friday, December 14, 2007

Numb to niceness

To drive in Mumbai is to become numb to niceness. From the first hesitant laps onwards, drivers quickly learn that it is better to snatch from others, for others will snatch from you too. If you choose to not snatch, it is assumed that you have parked the car. But this niceness, when it arrives, is so strange and unfamiliar that drivers will be momentarily stunned. The giver is preening; his magnanimous gesture elevates him beyond the classless masses. The recepient is taken aback by this generosity. How should he react? Is it some kind of trick? Today a recepient stood still, even as this driver furiously gestured to him to come forward and complete his U-turn - that the offer was genuine. He didn't buy in to the niceness. He inched forward with trepidation, wondering when I'd fuse my car with his. I waited. He waited. He came forward and stopped. I waved at him. His girlfriend looked at my fender with fear. He looked concerned. Two blocked lanes of cars began to honk. He advanced and stopped, still unable to believe his destiny. I gave up and drove by. No more generosity. It slows down everything.

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