The commute to office takes a debilitating three hours. Were it a straight stretch with law abiding motorists occupying the infrastructure, the tale would have been different.

I find it peculiar that people often end up manifesting their ugly, acrimonious and juvenile side on road, when basic courtesy, passing civility and common sense can work wonders. It is as if they give a vent to their pent-up aggression by turning seemingly innocuous incidents into a battle for honour. The way they zig-zag on highways is a clear indicator of how little they value their lives, and are not averse to squandering it away just to save a few minutes. Rules of roads are merely a suggestion for these Schumachers off the race tracks. I do wonder at times that how people can put so less value on their lives insofar as they remain insular to the consequences of their actions. What if they run over someone, or worse kill them?

I have been bullied into jumping red light by macho bus drivers; bikers snaking their way through tailbacks brushing the paint off my car; motorists honking sanity out of me for the crime of following the rule of the road are among some of the harassments I face each day on the commute to work. I often wonder why this happens. I remember a conversation I once had with my editor in the aftermath of fisticuffs between two colleagues in the office. The man in his wisdom told me such incidents take place when people fail to honour the partition between the professional and the personal. The wise man referred to traffic snarls to drive home his point. He said people in road rage often make tall claims, hurl choicest abuse and issue threats. All this aggression has its roots in the lack of self-belief and confidence. He said people want to feel important and when they rage against strangers, they want the unwitting beneficiary to feel they are important persons in their own right. All such rant has scant meaning, but it vitiates the atmosphere and a fight that would never have started had there been courtesy, snowballs into a life-and-death matter.

The reason most people have little to no self-respect is due to the sterile environment they lead their lives in. Sterile because arbitrary rules meant to quell their natural propensity offer them no avenue to express themselves. The unnatural relationships they strike with people they do not care about; the mad rush to prove their abilities in front of peers, who could not care less; the singular lack of positive reinforcement from their loved ones contribute to their dwindling sense of self-worth. This in turn manifests in taking offence at slightest provocation, and their turning into passive bullies, waiting for a chance to dismantle others even as their own lives are in disarray. What people construe as macho behavior often is an extension of their sorry state of being. Such people live and die by the sword, but never realize that such a life or death was neither necessary nor warranted.

I am reminded of a scene from Mario Puzo’s Godfather, wherein Vito Coreleone tells Mike that most people go about their lives begging others to kill them, and invariably find someone willing to oblige them. Such scenes occur daily on our roads, but it is only the threat of incarceration that prevents most from obliging the most stubborn supplicants. We, a civilized population, taking pride in such meaningless and pointless aggression fail to stand the scrutiny of reason. Is our civility an imposition of an alien concept against the very grain of our existence? Are our rules the diktat of a chosen few not abreast with the ground realities? No. They are not. When we decide to live in a society, we enter into a tacit and unwritten contract with others, proclaiming no ill-will and asserting their right to live as they please as long as it does not conflict with ours. When we turn against one of our own, we stand in violation of this social contract. When we proclaim to have inked the deal by agreeing to live in society, it is incumbent upon us to abide by the rules, formulated after careful reasoning to restrain our natural proclivity to violence. So, when violence manifests over slightest perception of slur, it is a breach of social contract. This is neither wholesome nor sustainable. A sad advertisement of our own maturity as human beings.