The inane and eccentric philosophies of life make so much sense while driving. For hours, I would stare ahead in front of me, the solid yellow lines on my left giving way to the dotted yellow lines, and then solid yellow lines, orange lights changing to reds and greens. It is amazing when I thought of the complex web of social interactions that happened in the confines of a car.
I am a seasoned driver pretty used to driving alone. I will often hop in my car at the wee hours of dawn and keep driving. Although people frown upon driving alone, often claiming that company in the car not only kills boredom, but also makes it safer to drive, I disagree. I often roll down the windows while driving, strong gusts of wind caressing my face and disheveling my hair. I put on my collection of favorite songs, alternating between car CDs and car radio. I listen to rock, jazz, ghazals, Bollywood numbers, Bappi Lahiri, Quick Gun Murugun, Shyama Sangeet (devotional songs for Ma Kali), and sometimes songs in languages I do not understand at all. I often shake my head when I listen to songs in Tamil and Marathi. I sometimes lift and fold my resting left leg, strum my fingers on the wheel, whistle, or sing with the music.
Things change somewhat when I have company. The inside temperature is constantly micromanaged, someone repeatedly turning on or off the air conditioning, fiddling with the vents and so on. Then, there is some rewinding, fast forwarding, or mild alluding to the mismatch in music taste. Radio channels are changed, CDs are shuffled, and there are constant complaints about the music being too fast or too loud. This is when there is just another person.
Three is even more interesting, especially if I as not driving. The dynamics of who would sit in the front passenger seat changes with the kind of relationship shared with the other inmates of the car. For example, the right to sitting in the front usually belongs to boyfriends, girlfriends, spouses, co-owners of the car, people with long legs, prettier faces, people higher up in the academic or professional food chain, non-drivers who need to navigate, or simply tantrum throwing people. There is hardly any control over the conversation (especially if it is in a different language), music, or the temperature of the car. However, staring out of the window from the backseat and pretending that others did not exist usually works.
Ditto to problems with four people in a car. If there are couples, they would usually retire to the backseat, ensconced in love, sharing hushed glances, holding hands, whispering jokes, talking about their own worldly problems, about what brand of mustard oil to buy from the trip back to the grocery store, to reminding to return the phone call of Kamalamoni mashima who is visiting her daughter in New Jersey from Naihati. You drive in pensiveness, with no idea about who is Kamalamoni mashima, or why did she choose to bring a tin full of roshogolla from Nobin Chandra Das instead of chumchums or pantua. Things get pretty interesting when the fourth person in the car is a baby. Babies have the right to pee, poop, puke, spit food, or throw tantrums in the car. Of course the right to eating in car is not restricted to babies alone. Not to mention the fight over the directions, whether the GPS is right or the iPhone is right, allusions to gender-based stereotypes of poor driving, that you constantly witness as a spectator from behind.
The worst case is when there are five people in the car, and a combination of everything happens. Someone is constantly changing music (from condition two), you are sitting in the back (from condition three), there is a couple sitting beside you (from condition four), and they are either embraced in sleep, constantly snoring, and occasionally leaning and falling on you, or are in heat. For me, the worse has been sitting in the back seat, while the newly wed Mrs. Wifey was learning how to drive, controlling the steering with a shaky hand, Mr. Hubby was teaching her to drive with endearments like “Shona” and “Mishtu”, and Mrs. Sister-in-law sitting beside me in the back was constantly talking about accidents, hit and runs, and insurance coverage. Of course no one thought of asking me if I am comfortable with the situation. Why would they? I am neither a Shona, a Mishtu, a spouse, a boss, nor a baby enchanting others with her smile.
Hence I prove my point. There is nothing like driving on your own, alone.
(P.S.: For the first time in my three year driving history, I accidentally jumped a rather innocuous looking red stop sign today)