Struggle is such a futile feeling. When one meets people who are ‘struggling’, one gets a sense of wheedling, beseeching neediness. A feeling of lack. A sense of a big gaping black hole that will always be there, no matter how much or what one fills into it. A struggle is an indication of misalignment. It’s the result of grating incongruity.
And at the basis of all struggle is a lack of clarity. And lack of clarity means lack of control.
I was thinking about all this when I drove my mum and cousin to Mount Mary and back. We started from Vashi around 4 p.m. We sailed over a formidable bridge, with a bright sun glinting over the sea. There was family chatter in the background and some good music on radio.
We reached Chembur, and it was easy driving through that area as well. There were a few instances of rickshaws angling to cut lanes and some big Scorpios nipping against my car, but over all, it was okay.
There was a glorious stretch on the Bandra flyover where the sky spread like a panel of pink cellophane paper.
S.V. Road was simple enough, for most of the way.
But then we hit Hill Road. And….
No lanes, plenty of cars, haphazard swarms of people, stalls oozing out on to the roads, boulders serving as dividers. Angry, impatient honking, endless wait on the bend to Bandstand...and beyond the fracas, a stunning sunset molted away to reveal a nubile, fledgling night.
Inside my car, tempers were short and people were getting impatient. I clumsily tried to angle my car this way and that, just to avoid getting blocked by another rickshaw or pedestrian or biker. At the time, I thought that people without cars have no business being on the roads. If they can’t afford to be in a vehicle, let them be at home. I spewed curses at pedestrians – those frustrating imbeciles who cross the road just as it seems a little free and hold out their hands in a bid to stop a car. Such stupidity must not exist. These people should be run over.
On the way back, the traffic had gotten worse. I was tired and my neck was tight with tension. Sion circle was choked and the Chunnabhatti flyover was a spread of metallic Bingo mad-angles. Mankhurd was a mess and the Vashi bridge was vile. All the while, a silent cloud of suffocation was enveloping my head and there came a point when, I think, I was not even breathing anymore.
This is too much. Driving shouldn’t be this hard. And given the way traffic is, it is most important to enjoy the process because it’s not as if you are reaching anywhere quickly. For the most part of the journey, the experience of being behind the wheel is going to remain distinct and individual. So, sharing the misery is not really an option, and if you have to swallow and wallow in any kind of turpitude, it may as well be the pleasant type. (This of course goes against the very grain of ‘turpitude’, but still.)
That’s when I figured I was approaching all this the wrong way. I am not a skilful driver. I don’t change gears quickly enough, I always brake too close to a car, and I almost always forget to see a traffic signal. (In my side of town, they are hardly ever working, so…) If I just managed a steady pace, I wouldn’t be troubled by the manic swerving auto rickshaws or pedestrian thrusts. A lot of my discomfiture stems from my inability. It’s a pretty universal cause for defensiveness and conflict. When you cannot handle something smoothly, you are going to be wrestling against one kind of conflict or the other. And that’s bound to make you testy.
So, close to home, I decided to be pleasant and not get agitated. I would just focus on what I was doing, and ensure that I don’t force my way through the task. So, I decided to change gears smoothly instead of grunting and pushing it around. I decided to gently slow down instead of grinding to a halt, and I basically decided to let things go. In a crowded road in busy traffic, I decided to think of calm, breezy islands. It’s a pleasant feeling – to have such a stark contradiction in your imagination; to have an impossibly peaceful destination in the midst of such crazy blitzkrieg. There’s no decision as momentous as taking things nice and slow.
I was much better by the time I got into the driveway. And what’s more, I parallel parked in the first glide.
Bliss. It’s better to master than to struggle.