By Ranjini Banerjee
Incidences of road rage will reduce if people learn to tame ‘the beast within’
“Oppose not rage while rage is in its force, but give it way a while and let it waste.”
– William Shakespeare.
She was competent, dedicated, hardworking, friendly, loved by friends and family and now she is dead. Soumya Vishwanathan, a producer in her 20s with a leading television channel, was found dead on October 5, 2008, in a posh locality of Delhi. Police investigations so far point the suspicion towards road rage. It would have been just another unfortunate statistic, except for the fact that she was the friend of a friend of mine, a fact that brought the fear and anger much closer home.
Let’s face it; we are angry people, raised by angry people and,in turn, raising more angry people. The only difference is that our parents had learned the fine art of suppressing or disguising their anger or perhaps channelling it through various outlets. Today, however, it is the norm to express anger and aggression. One dangerous outcome of such expression can be felt in the form of road rage, a phenomenon that has grown by leaps and bounds and is now common in cities across India, with Delhi topping the list.
The way the traffic moves is a reflection of the character of the city. So, what makes Delhi so aggressive? Is it the city’s history of constantly being invaded and fighting off invaders in the past, or its extreme climatic condition, especially the summer, or is it that being the capital city and a political hub, more or less everyone is well connected with ‘influential’ families, making them feel they can get away with murder? Any confrontation on the road (and if you are a Delhiite, you instinctively know that) spells big trouble! Also, as victims of road rage, women are more vulnerable to physical damages, which can lead to emotional and psychological trauma.
Ayesha Khanomi (28), a journalist, and Debarati Dhar, (29), a writer with an IT firm, were unfortunate enough to personally encounter a comparatively mild form of road rage in NCR recently. On their way back home, their car (an Alto) accidentally brushed against a parked car (a Qualis). Shuddering at the memory, Ayesha recounts, “It was a very scary moment; we just did not know how to react! The driver of the Qualis was joined by some of his friends and soon our car was surrounded by these men. First, they asked us to get off the car(which we refused to do), and then they started demanding money. After much persuasion and bargaining, finally they let us off after confiscating our driver’s mobile. It was a nightmare.”
So what is this instigation that turns seemingly normal human beings into brutal beasts? It may be the need to cause damage to the one who has caused us damage, or the need to defend ourselves when being blamed by the ‘other’ party. Or is road rage an outlet for pent-up emotions like anger, disappointment, helplessness and frustration?
G Venkatesh Rao, Advocate, Supreme Court of India, agrees by saying, “It gives the person an opportunity to lash out at a soft target i.e. a complete stranger with whom he or she has no association and therefore easy game for having a tiff and taking out whatever negative emotions the person may be feeling in his life or at that point of time.” He feels the main causes are the fast pace of modern society, vehicular traffic congestion and the very nature of modern existence which is insecure and filled with tension and pressures devoid of spiritual peace and calm.
Who exactly is the road rager? Does he have a particular identity? Dr Barmi, (Senior Clinical Psychologist, ESCORTS Heart Institute & Research Centre, New Delhi) assigns some common characteristics like risk-taking behavior in young adults, poor anger management skills, the need to experiment and test one’s limits, unsafe driving practices like high speed (synonymous with masculinity) that could be associated with a road rager.
It has also been observed that a person involved in road rage situations as the aggressor, usually drives a red or black car. The colour is an extension of the driver’s personality and red is a preferred colour for the ‘yuppie’. Astrologically speaking, red is also the colour of Mars, the warrior planet, which is associated with anger, aggression and passion. Tarot card reader, numerologist and colour therapist, Dr Seema Midha, agrees wholeheartedly. She says, “Red and black can be categorised as colours which spell ‘danger’ and are not meant for every individual, as a person driving a red car will be more prone to physical violence during an incident of road rage.” Dr Midha points out that Adi Shakti Devi, Ma Bhagwati, who is represented as a red deity, is the destroyer of evil and to destroy negativity she needs the aggression and power of the colour red. She also reminds that from time immemorial, black has been associated with evil and negativity, while red is almost always the colour of danger and violence. So people must pay due attention to the colour of their cars when they select a personal vehicle.
In these explosive times, no one is immune to the possibility of experiencing a violent spurt of rage on the road. Motivational trainer, Anil Bhatnagar, feels, “Anger or aggression is a temporary madness which can overcome anybody, though there may be people who may be more prone to it.”
Bhatnagar further explains it using the science of Proxemics, which states that all of us have a personal space or bubble around us, which we would not like anyone to intrude upon, unless we allow it. He says, “When we are driving a car, it becomes our extended body. And we begin to claim some space around it in the form of a bubble as our rightful personal space. For this reason, people often deliberately avoid eye contact when a car comes and stops at our side at a red light. Stress makes this tendency of considering and treating humans within your private space as inanimate, more volatile. It gets reinforced with the common inner feeling of frustration, of being small, or of being lost in a sea of crowd, which compels the ego to prove itself.” He believes that more compassionate people are less likely to give in to this tendency because of their lesser need for personal space. The more one considers oneself superior and separate from others or feels the need for being visible, the more one is likely to give in to road rage – the need for personal space being bigger.
Hence, although human nature is as unpredictable as that of an animal, “will bite when provoked”, not all people give in to this basic instinct. So, what makes the “humans” different from the ‘beasts’? With a spiritual evolution taking place across the globe and the significant year 2012 drawing closer, the answer lies in looking within you. It is at times necessary to yield or give in. Allowing an aggressive driver to overtake you will not make you a lesser human being or waiting for your car to move in a traffic jam is not a test of your patience but that of your endurance and your ability to maintain your calm in a crisis.
And it is not just about the menace of road rage, which is just one form of evil. Good and evil reside side by side within us and it is we who choose to let one take over the other. If you have the desire, then even simple techniques like breathing right and meditation, which is a secular tool for developing love and compassion, can be a big step that allows your spiritual side to evolve. It does not take too much of an effort to become a better human being, as all of us have that inherent potential but it is sure to make a big difference to people around you, like your family and society at large.
Swami Kriyananda (Ananda Sangha) says, “All human problems can be traced back to man’s sense of egoic separateness – from other human beings, and from his fellow creatures.” He emphasises that we need to realise that we are all manifestations of God’s consciousness. The ego, he believes, is the fundamental delusion, from which all other delusions are derived. Road rage is simply “symptomatic of exaggerated self-centredness, self-worth, and self-importance.” He further clarifies that the goal of spirituality is the elimination of the “consciousness of separateness between self and Self – the little ego, that is to say, and the one abiding Self underlying all beings. Obviously, for one whose goal is spiritual oneness, such qualities as “road rage” are left so far behind as to be all but forgotten.”
Ask yourself these basic questions: are you always angry, at your spouse, your children, your co-workers, the government, and a reckless driver on the road or just about anything? Do you often feel the need to take control, perhaps even by dominating or hurting others in the process? Do you get easily instigated to act in ways in which you would not have reacted normally? If you find that you or a loved one is facing these difficult situations on a regular basis, then maybe it is time that you proactively took charge and decided to tame the beast within. Even if only a few people begin by changing themselves, it is sure to set off a ripple effect and then violent situations like that of road rage can gradually be a thing of the past!
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