App-based taxi services today are all the rage. Friends who use them swear by them. The cabs are clean, the drivers are well-mannered and the best bit is that they go where you want them to. Must admit, I’m an unabashed admirer too, especially from the outside. Watching them drive is just so entertaining. Forget the thrills and near misses in Formula 1, if you want real seat-of-the pants excitement, watch a yellow plate driver take a ‘U’ turn on top of a flyover; traffic thundering past like a herd of wildebeests on either side. It’s terrifying. And what’s worse is that the driver always seems to be unsure of where he is going. So instead of looking at the oncoming traffic, with eyes like saucers, he’s far away in La-La Land, looking around like a confused chicken, waiting for his GPS to ‘catch up’. That vacuous look, however, isn’t to be laughed at; you’d be zoning out too, after 18 hours behind the wheel. Even the delivery boys are scared to death of them: “Bohot danger hai bhai, kabhi bhi turn mar sakte hai.”
Keen to enjoy this wondrous new sport, I decided to dive in and get a grandstand seat. And I wasn’t disappointed. One driver, in particular, was a real star. He had this wondrous habit of looking down at his map, just as we were approaching a cross road. Now normally this wouldn’t produce a laxative effect, but it was past midnight and he was cruising by the amber lights at 80! Forget slowing down, he wasn’t even looking. I screamed. But he did it again: “What if I miss a turn?” he asked, absolutely certain he was doing the right thing. Further up the road, voice shaking and fingers still trembling, I asked where had he learnt to drive. His answer did nothing to allay my fears. He had taught himself, on the job, he said proudly, and that his license belonged to his cousin. Of course, if you think about it, that just makes so much sense; how else would the ‘aggregators’ manage to corner so many drivers? There just aren’t that many of them in the first place. Not only are they out to disrupt other cabs, they’re out to disrupt us.
So now, armed with first-hand knowledge, and ready to take evasive action, I am better prepared. Yes, ‘yellow plates’ will continue to chop and change lanes, and some confused by their maps will continue to do 360s at cross roads; and there’s absolutely nothing we can do about it.
But on a serious note, driving standards have to improve. The authorities just have to stop and fine bad drivers. But how often have you seen them fine a yellow plate? Have you ever? Makes you think, doesn’t it. Swear by them? No, not really; I’m normally swearing at them.