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Letter from the editor

July 10, 2009

Dear Readers, if I can begin this Drive issue with an appeal to my fellow drivers, a simple three words—please give way.

Not always, but maybe once or twice a day, let someone pass, not because they’ve pushed in, but because you’ve allowed it. I know there are a few heroes who do this already. You are the unsung beacons of good manners who understand that the roads, even during rush-hour, are a shared experience, and that sharing ought to bring out the best in us. But you are few and far between —lifebuoys of civility in a sea of savages, everyone barging and shoving to get one car ahead, stopping only to open their doors and spit.

Admittedly, I live in Delhi, the land that manners forgot, but the other metros aren’t much better. Drivers are either oblivious to others or resentful of them, the space they occupy, and the obstacle they present. Our roads could so easily be delightful, bursting with sights and sounds, from bullock carts to Bentleys, not to mention the bikes heaped with balloons, wicker furniture, idols, you name it. But that charm is crushed in the mad, lawless rush of traffic, the constant blaring threat of collision. People push their way through because no one gives way. And rudeness begets rudeness.

Cars serve as psychological masks of a sort—within the protection of these automotive exoskeletons, we reveal ourselves more fully. And it’s an ugly sight for the most part—selfish, contemptuous of others, aggressive. People complain about Italian or French drivers, how arrogant they are, but Paris and Rome are like resort spas compared to my daily commute. In most other nations, driving time is precious—the music playing, our thoughts percolating, the scenery rushing past. But in India, driving is a chore, and we can’t blame the roads (though they are poor) or the traffic (though it is heavy). It’s a chore because other drivers make it so. To drive in an Indian metro is to see not India’s bright future, but its backward past.

So, give way today and enjoy it. Smile at your fellow drivers and give them space to manoeuvre. As someone once said: “Be the change you want to see”. Enjoy the issue.


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