It had been two long hours. The queue had not moved by an inch. I had brought all the required documents with me in a file cover but the delay in my turn caused me to use the file cover as a hand fan. The scorching heat of blindingly golden sun was already roasting me, but what made me boil was the sight of a bunch of people, both men and women, coming out of the centre after which our waiting line started to move tardily. In accordance with the intrinsic human behaviour, I should have lifted my foot and stepped forward. But I guess I am not so human. I left my place, followed the bunch and unhesitatingly approached its leader. Those starched clothes, that swaggering prance, his pretentious voice… I initially confused him to be a federal minster. Well, he surely was an authority in this case as he was… an agent!

Like a lost traveller looking for an oasis in a desert, I reached the cloth market in Shadman Chowk (a prominent area in Lahore) in order to find answers to my tousled questions. After taking help from a few shoppers I found the shop I had been told about by the agent I had met outside the Driving License Centre at Thokar Niaz Baig. It may sound to be a scene from a Bollywood movie but believe me my readers, this is exactly what happened.

“Have you brought the money?” he asked without directly looking at me.

“Yes,” I said while handing over to him the due amount in an envelope. “It is 4,000,” I added while he counted the paper notes with his saliva-wet finger.

“Here is your file. It has a form that has been filled in your favour. I will meet you tomorrow at the centre at nine sharp,” he said sternly. With this he stood up, walked away and disappeared in the crowd.

The next morning I found my agent waiting for me outside the main entrance. That day I was among the few being given protocol. That day I bypassed all those standing in the queue and went straight inside for the test. That day I identified the major flaws in our traffic system owing to which we encounter a number of problems that are pertinent to and a reflection of this society’s approach.

I was asked about the meanings of a few uncommon road signs and, for the sake of acquisition of the procedure’s complete knowledge, I answered all incorrectly. I would not have been much surprised had the woman ‘mistakenly’ taken my wrong answers to be correct, but all of this was very much deliberate. She pointed the long wooden stick in her hand towards one of the several road signs displayed on a chart and moved on to the next one without waiting for me to answer. After fulfilling this formality in the name of a road-sign test, I was asked to proceed.

Next, was the driving test itself. I chose to wait despite being among the privileged ones who were being treated out of the way and who were, in fact, being cursed by those waiting in a long queue outside the centre. While I was trying to analyse the situation, a young female candidate sat in the car, foolhardily drove the car forward, applied brakes with a sudden jerk, and reversed the vehicle even more recklessly such that a traffic pylon cone got crushed under the rear right tire. What I saw next made me leave before sitting behind the steering wheel and taking the test. The instructors at the centre blinded themselves in order to save the energy they were to spend on the sight of crispy paper currency later and handed over to the lady her submission papers for the attainment of her driving license.

On my way back, I asked my car’s driver to sit at the back and let me drive. With no license in my wallet, I drove from Thokar Niaz Baig to New Airport Road. The level of my assiduousness could be assessed by the observations that I made while I was supposed to be driving keeping in mind the severity of action which could be taken against me by any traffic warden if I had got caught without my papers. May be this was what I wanted.

I was stuck in a traffic jam on Ferozepur Road when I saw a donkey-cart on my left and a BMW on my right, myself sitting in an Alto. Because the jam was expected to be as it was for the next 20 minutes or so owing to a VIP movement, I let my mind wander and wonder whether the donkey cart owner would have a license to bring this ‘vehicle’ on a main road in a metropolis.

My remorseful eyes then registered a motorbike hitting a Corolla and producing a dent in the middle of its rear bumper. “Are you blind? Can’t you see? Was there any space between the two cars through which you hoped to stride away? Do you have a license?” were the questions that followed the collision. “I don’t have papers with me!” was the biker’s only reply.

Next, I saved my car from being bumped into by a Land Cruiser whose driver was in a continuous struggle to overtake the vehicle from the left side of the road and leave his four-wheel’s ‘tyre-prints’ on the right (speediest) lane.

Later, I witnessed a high-speed City losing control, colliding with walkway divider, rolling over on the other side of the road and hitting a Civic that was coming from the other side. I do not know about the survivors or casualties but the accident was severe enough to trigger horripilation in me.

By the time I reached home, I had with me all the answers I needed. The chaotic traffic we bear on roads is due to one or several of the under-mentioned reasons:

1.      We are still confused with the terms right- and left-hand driving (We drive on the left side of the road so we have left-hand driving in Pakistan. But wait! Isn’t the right-most lane the speediest one?);

2.      We have no clue about majority of the road signs (How many of us know that there is actually a road sign called “Gap in Median”?);

3.      Despite knowing a few we do not want to abide by those traffic signs (how many of us give way to other vehicles when we see a sign asking to “Give Way”? And don’t we park in the No-Parking areas?);

4.      All of us gravely want to drive in the first lane (Why did they even make the other lanes?);

5.      We have been unable to fully understand the function of indicators. These trafficators are blinking lights on vehicles that indicate the direction in which the vehicle is about to turn. You cannot simply rotate your vehicle’s axle and wheels the very next moment after flashing the blinker. Furthermore, why can’t we make one considered decision of where to turn? (You can also use the indicators to warn others on the road about your decision of changing the lanes);

6.      Vehicles such as carts and bicycles, which are considered not worthy enough to be issued registrations and licenses, not only wheel on main roads but also cause deadly accidents because even if they cross the roads laterally, they cannot  be charged (Catch me if you can!);

7.      Here we hear an ambulance’s siren and there we gear up to rush our vehicles at warp speeds. We deafen our ears to the sirens and view this as a golden opportunity to save a few minutes of our precious lives. But what about the patient for whom that ambulance was blowing off the siren? Well, let’s move on!

8.      A large faction of our population does not want to stand in long queues and wait and also wants to avoid the process of learning (do you remember the issue of fake degrees?). Therefore, they take help from the agents (also known as service providers) who could bypass the assessment tests for the issuance of licenses (I found my agent in a cloth market; you may find yours sitting in a rickshaw outside the Driving License Centres!);

9.      Footpaths should strictly serve as walkways. They were never meant to be used as another lane for motorbikes and bicycles (I cannot help myself from picturing all the pedestrians walking on the roads and the two-wheelers riding on paseos);

10.  There is a right time for everything therefore it would not be harmful if everyone first learns how to drive and then comes on road. All ladies should develop a road sense (please stop colliding with cars to save a full lane for a bicyclist!) and the already-formulated strict rules regarding underage driving should actually be implemented;

11.  Guys! If you want to impress girls, believe me there are several other ways. You do not have to put your and others’ life and property in danger by opting for one-wheeling. Also, those horns should only be honked when they are supposed to be, not when you can see the red signal and only to satiate your lust for speed;

12.  We can no more breathe without our mobile phones. The melodious ringtones are now like the rhythms of our thumping hearts. If you are on a bike, you may choose to place your cell phone between your ear and helmet (or shoulder in case you are not wearing a helmet!), or without any hurdle you can simply text and attend calls while riding. And a car definitely provides you with an extra advantage of driving slow (even if you are in the first lane) because you simply have to ignore the honking horns and cursing looks of others;

13.  The remaining, who actually and literally know all about driving and traffic rules, may choose to abide by the regulations or simply prefer to be among the violators (Should I always be the only one who waits at red light after midnight?).

14.  Last, but not the least, if nothing works on being caught by a warden, you can always fake a call to a Chaudhary, Shah, Khan or Malik (We all know about VIP treatment, don’t we?).

Readers, do you wish to solve this problem? If yes then list down the flaws in other people’s driving and remove these faults from your own. If no then bring it on!