I drive an average of 90 minutes every day, give or take 20 minutes. I’ve realised that driving in New Delhi is a lot like life:
A stitch in time saves nine: If I get out of the door at 8.45 am, I will be in office by 9.15 including parking and the journey up the lift. Since we do 8-hour shifts, I can then leave at 5.15 in the evening, which ensures I am home well before 6 pm. However, if I leave home even 10 minutes later in the morning, the traffic builds up on the roads both ways, and I reach home at 7 pm or much later that evening, extending my travelling time more than an hour. So being disciplined in the morning leads to a smoother, shorter work day. Isn’t that exactly what financial planning, time management, preventive health and stress management all about? Short-term effort leads to long-term gain.
Every being is important: A glance through a daily newspaper will lead you to believe Delhi roads are all about hit-and-runs and buses mowing over pedestrians. But those are the exceptions that make it to the newspapers. Ninety percent of the time, people stop, give way, make space, adjust, compromise and watch out for one another on the busy, congested, people-stuffed roads of the Indian capital. We even make way stoically for cows, dogs and other animals. I firmly believe in the innate goodness of human beings and perhaps that’s why I see such examples around me every day, revelatory moments that prove time and again that every being is important, no life is too little, and we must all make space for and respect every being out there.
There are no short cuts: Sometimes you get caught in a terrible traffic jam during rush hour on the highway and decide to take a ‘short cut’ down the alleys or smaller roads running alongside. Bad idea. In most cases, it will take you the same amount of time or even longer to reach home, and you will be far more frazzled after negotiating narrower terrain with worse jams. Lesson: Accept what has been given to you by the universe, and go with it. What you resist persists. Sink into the moment, turn on the music, and make the most of it.
Be in the moment: Driving is sometimes like meditation; you often drift into your own thoughts and lose track of vast stretches of miles or minutes you’ve covered. It’s like you go into a trance and let your subconscious do the driving. This can be dangerous. When we live our lives by default, we are prone to real and metaphorical accidents, and we miss hundreds of opportunities. Opportunities to make us better people or simply make us smile. When we are distracted, we aren’t focusing on our life’s purpose. Like meditation, the solution is to gently lead your thoughts back to the moment, on the road, on the car in front of you. Be aware of what’s going on. Pay attention. There is magic in every moment. Don’t miss it.
Driving is necessary, stress is optional: There are some things we just gotta do, driving, working, bring up our kids, making a living. We can either choose to do them stressfully, zipping between lanes, honking away, adding cortisol to our blood streams, trying to get ahead of everyone else, trying to save a few extra minutes at the traffic signal at the cost of our mental peace and health. Or we can do it calmly, sticking to one lane, chilled out, riding over bumps and turns with patience and grace. Guess what path leaves you happier and healthier in the long term?