Let’s begin with the gospel truth: Lahori drivers are the best. Well, they are best at breaking rules. As a consequence of which, they are best at breaking bones either through crashes or fights that ensue almost every time.
Somehow, all that does not seem out of place or, perhaps, I am an ‘institutionalised’ Lahori — one who doesn’t want to go anywhere and is sick to the gut to see the city people behaving like the way they do in the streets.
But this is about driving habits only. And I’ve identified a few types. In no order of merit:
The ‘Middle’-march: Most four-stroke rickshaw drivers, old uncles, and cyclists who seem to have all the world’s time at their disposal, march their rides pat in the middle of the road.
Now, marching is not about rushing it (remember the long marches?). So, these guys do it in their stead. You see rickshaws with all the advertisements for holy-men tacked on their rear windows. I don’t know about holy men, but the wrong-lane driving gets these vehicles loads of attention and, hence, “followers” on the road.
The Lahori Cut: No, it’s not a about how Lahoris like the meat cut for the handis they’ll consume. This is more of a generally practised thing. It’s usually observed 200 metres short of overhead and underpass entrances. Straightforward people as they are, the drivers have yet to come to terms with entry and exit requirements at the interchanges which are comparable to the complexity in visa rules created by the developed countries for Pakistanis. So they do what they do best — put peddle to the metal, swerve sharply for three lanes, and make the entry in grand style.
Cheetah Crossing: The signal is red on three sides, so our cheetahs would time their exits from the side where it’s red, in perfect unison with the lull in traffic on the other side. They may get their bones shattered but, hey, that’s a little price to pay for the ‘freedom’ you enjoy.
Deep Consistency: As they say in Punjab, ‘Na chhaer malangan nu,’ our unflinching, deeply consistent driver never heeds (a honk), never cares; he just goes on and on, unmindfully shifting gears, occasionally scratching his head (in deep thoughts?), mystified by the last WhatsApp joke about Lahore’s cricket performance.
Attraction for the Opposite: This usually manifests itself on the roads without dividers. When the traffic halts on one side of the road, the drivers suddenly feel the urge to create a Kashmir-like impasse on their sides as well. This results in a situation in which you are surrounded by a snarling mob of engines. The lucky ones get full-strength, multiple-shot blasts of diesel smoke straight in their face. The lesser ones suddenly find themselves helpless as traffic comes to block their way from the opposite side. It gets nice and warm in the summers, as you have to turn off airconditioning, or engine, or both to save on fuel.