Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Gesturing in Traffic

Nowadays, most of us find ourselves contributing our all to the already chock-a-block traffic. Even grandmothers are out driving merrily on the road! We barge around, just because we have vehicles often compromising safety for speed. Pretending to be busy is becoming a habit and a fashion. Perhaps, the pace and style of 'Kaliyuga life' has much to do. Most of us use the wheels instead of legs these days, don't we? In such a chaotic situation, our dear wheeled vehicles are our 'right-hand' things.

Did I say 'right hand'? Let me deviate to the anatomical right hand. Gesturing in traffic to signal intentions by the rider to others, the right hand is [supposed to be] used. It is not an art, but perfunctory. But there are involuntary artists who gesture in their own special manner, the sight of which can tickle the funny bone. The dress may be the index of character; the face, of the mind. Even their gesturing, perhaps. Let's see how some two-wheeler riders show off, or don't.

A certain Menon, a strict disciplinarian, his dress neatly pressed, stretches out his right arm sideways, exactly at 90 degrees to his upright trunk like a cricket umpire signaling a 'no ball'. There are those who do it a la an Ambedkar "action-statue", compelling the onlookers to curiously look in 'that' direction. There are others who exaggerate the angle of the arm, almost pointing skyward, making those around to look up there.

There is one Ratnakar who is of the restless type that gestures in "RAM-style" -- Rapid Arm Movement, fluttering the arm. Ah, those automen… we should be lucky enough to notice a few curved fingers, half-heartedly jutted out, barely visible from any angle. Then we have these great thinkers-on-wheels, who seem to suddenly wake up from a slumber and remember, bang on the point of making a turn, sending the right arm out in a flash, like a frog's tongue catching prey. Some do it in a startling split-second action like the shutter of a camera. Then there are those who do it in a stiff, military manner, akin to the trafficators [mechanically operated arm-like light unit that jutted out between the two doors of cars] of yore.

The over-careful ones, like my friend Suresh, honk the horn every 10 ft., slow down, look up, down and all other directions, at every intersection, make all the signals diligently as if he is a student watched by the teacher. Those speeding adolescents seem to respect and adhere to the proverb "fortune favours the brave"! Their only goal is to cover road-distance and all else - rules, other road users - is utter nonsense. People riding with shaky rear-view mirrors use an amazing body language that drives home their point, without use of the hand. There are those, who, for unknown reasons make the gesture soon after the event.

We seldom see quiet pillion-riders. Do we? They are arguably, the best 'back seat drivers'. I sometimes used to take my octogenarian friend, Shama Rao on my scooter. Restless as he was, waved his right arm far too early. He never got the point when I asked him to sit still and do nothing.

Once I saw a man showing his intention by stretching his right arm sideways. Nothing special. When about to make the intended turn, lo and behold, he suddenly changed his mind, promptly slowed down and sincerely 'cancelled' that signal by writing a big 'X' in the air and then rode straight.

I have seen some real buffalo-headed riders who neither look at the traffic nor do any signaling. The curmudgeons give such a one a pip with knotted eyebrows if someone errs, but when they are on the wrong side of the right, two hoots.

Mr.Brown, my late friend, was a retired guard in the Railways, who led a relaxed, disciplined life. He used to ride his favourite Humber bicycle for short errands. Expectedly, he used the bell and did his prompt signaling while riding it. But renounced using it and wisely turned pedestrian, the very moment he realized that the citizens' road-sense was way too crazy. And he got annoyed being a pedestrian too, after being hit by a cyclist.

Individuality in our actions is always there. Let us not forget to gesture the prescribed signals at the right time without being conscious of the style - the intention is to communicate clearly to avoid confusion and accident. Light indicators must be preferred at night. Signaling while in traffic is as necessary as 'calling' for runs between batting partners while taking runs in cricket. Lest we get 'run out'.

Pray, let some 'horse sense' prevail in our 'road sense'.

No comments: