A one year hiatus from driving has not dulled my driving skills. But it sure has blunted the memories of Mumbai traffic from my mind. People always tell me that traffic in Mumbai is a lot more disciplined than traffic in Delhi, or Chennai or any other city in India for that matter. And this comes just when I complain to my friends about the gross disregard shown to drivers by cabbies who run a drag race of their own from traffic signal to traffic signal! I can only imagine then, how traumatic life can be for those who need to drive in those other cities.
So, never mind the incessant wait in never-ending traffic snarls. Never mind the billowing smoke that emanates from the random truck whose gas pipe is so conveniently at the level of your open car window! As long as there is the radio, though I wish they'd play more music and talk lesser, and as long as you're ok to go on with closed windows, life is cool, well comparatively cooler! But hell breaks loose when an aspiring grand prix driver in a black and yellow cab suddenly decides that a red light turning to green is akin to the 'five lights illuminate and they go out, and the Mumbai Grand Prix is GO' signal!! Unfortunately people slowly getting back to grips with the pleasures of driving are caught in the fray, HEADLONG. And then start the observations.
People are always in a hurry. Especially those on two wheels. They go as far to the edge of the signal as they possibly can, and when the light turns green they race like as though in a MotoGP so that they can zip past the next signal and the next maybe before those lights turn red! And much as you're concerned about protecting your car, you worry more about their life, since a simple nudge by a car is perhaps enough to kill them! Ford was right - a car is indeed a lethal weapon, and given the spate of hit-and-runs, looks like the RTO is indeed handing over licenses to kill to our aspiring 18 year olds! So, silent prayers and occasional 'gadha kaheen ka' gaalis later, you move on and come to yet another signal. This one is red and you drum your steering wheel to the tune that's playing and 'Uff teri adaa' is interrupted by a loud honk. Why? the traffic signal has a second ago turned green and the car behind you thinks you have launch control a-la F1 cars! Alas, even a Ferrari F430 gives 0 to 100 kmph in 3.5 seconds!!! But who cares, what if you had fallen asleep behind the wheel? The guy behind you is doing you a favor here!!
And finally comes the car driver or cabbie who thinks he is on a motor bike. He zips and zooms as fast as he can and that is ok. You'd perhaps stay faaaaaaar away from those species. The issue is when he thinks he can push his car through a gap between a truck and your car and in the process leaves a dirty gash all over the side of your car. Never mind the spoilt appearance. The biggest problem is coming home and explaining that the source of the gash was errant driving by a lunatic on the road and not a need for speed from your side! But that argument seldom ever flies and you perhaps end grounded for a week!
But in terms of driving in Mumbai now, with the higher income levels and the increased proliferation of drivers who drive in gay abandon with scant regard towards the well-being of cars both under and around them, being grounded is perhaps the best thing that could happen to you!!!