Rage machines

Last Sunday, Mayur Aggarwal, a 25-year-old businessman, rammed his Swift three times into Amit Valinjkar’s Honda City. It was, apparently, a case of road rage. Valinjkar was with his wife, two-year-old son and parents. Aggarwal was with his father and brother. The two cars were at the signal near Mahalaxmi station. Apparently the Swift was in the Honda’s way. Valinjkar honked. Aggarwal, angered by the honking, reversed his car into the Honda.

In a city that’s constantly seething with road rage, it’s surprising that you don’t read more stories of this sort. Some instinct of self-preservation must be keeping us from ramming ours cars into others, turning the roads into a macabre bumper car playground. That, and the ridiculously low speed at which we’re forced to drive in Bombay. It’s a tenuous instinct before the violent impulse that driving on Bombay’s lawless and noisy roads evokes. When a car blindsides you by overtaking from the left, don’t you just want to put a dent in its rear? Or when the cabbie behind you relentlessly jabs his horn even though you’re stuck in a traffic jam, don’t you want to reverse into his bumper? Or when a car in the wrong lane tries to unapologetically cut into the right one, the one you happen to be in, don’t you want to knock it back?

The incident seems to me a presentiment for a future of frequent acts of road rage. There are bound to be clashes of this sort as more cars hit roads that are already over burdened.

According to news reports, Bombay had 17,67,798 vehicles as of 2010. An average of 300 two-wheelers and 200 cars were registered every day since 2009. The public transport system, while it is excellent, is simply not enough for Bombay’s population. The metro and mono rails will hopefully encourage people to take the train instead of driving. But who knows when they will be ready. The first phase of the metrol rail – Andheri-Versova-Ghatkopar – was to completed by the end of 2010. It’s nowhere near ready.

The scenario lends itself spectacularly to science fiction. Some time in the future, road rage has assumed the form of a disease. Drivers continue to drive badly, perpetuating violent acts of rage. Entire cities are wiped out by way of car crashes. Or, the government harnesses the power of the car horn, whose sound drives men to the point of madness. Soldiers are turned into killing machines by subjecting them to the sound of honking. When suitably enraged, they are unleashed upon the enemy. (As writers of fiction like to bring things full circle, the soldiers eventually realise they are being exploited and turn on the government.)

It’s doubtful that the Aggarwals see the futuristic quality of their act. They have more pressing things to think about as they’ve been accused of attempted murder, a charge that carries a sentence of up to ten years in jail.

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