Blood on the streets

Delhi - due di notte

Delhi - 2am (Photo credit: Tamurello)

I was a few streets from home when it came at me. An SUV on the wrong side of the road, travelling in the wrong direction, rushing out of the night straight at my car, lights flashing and horn blaring for me to get out of the way.

It was no time to argue. I slammed the brakes on and swerved. I managed to avoid a head-on collision but the two cars scraped along the side of each other before slewing to a halt in the middle of the deserted road.

The other driver was getting out of his car. He looked drunk and ready for a fight. It was two o’clock in the morning and there was no one else around. No witnesses. The passenger door was opening: there were two of them. I’d heard about situations like this. They were on the wrong side of the road but they didn’t look in the mood for a discussion. I decided to get out of there.

I drove off, fast. I would get to my flat, just a few streets away, and call the police from there. For all I knew they could have been armed.

I heard the horn and looked in my mirror. They were following me, flashing their lights and  waving out of the window.

I’d been in a car chase before, but that was in Iraq at the height of the hostage-taking crisis. I never expected to be in one in Delhi, a few streets from where I live.

I could see my building, just ahead. I was almost there. Then they spotted a gap, swerved round in front of me, and blocked my path. They were getting out of the car, running towards me. There was no way out. No point in locking myself in, either, they could just break the windows.

I was half way out of the car when the other driver reached me. He pulled the door away and started hitting me. The other man was coming, with an ugly look on his face. They both looked very young.

Behind them, I saw the security guards from my street come running. Saved, I thought. The men who keep me up all night blowing their whistles are going to come to my aid.

But no. They just stood and watched. They knew my car, they knew me. But as long as we didn’t cross into their street, it seemed, we weren’t their problem.

In the end, I was lucky. Very lucky. My two attackers were young, and when it came to it, they weren’t as brave as they thought they were. I pushed the driver away hard and asked him what the hell he thought he was doing. He hesitated, lost his nerve.

They were both very drunk too, and for all I knew they were seeing two of me and didn’t know which one to hit.

While they hesitated, I managed to get inside my street, where the neighbours could hear, and called a friend. He called the police. When my two assailants heard the police were coming, they got in their car and ran for it.

That was my experience of Delhi road rage. A lot of victims are not so lucky. Last month, an autorickshaw driver was beaten to death. He hit a car by accident. The occupants of the car were drunk. They got out and attacked him. One of them picked up a brick and hit him repeatedly in the head with it. That could have been me.

That was in the dead of night. Last December a man and his son beat a man to death in broad daylight, because he brushed against their motorbike with his scooter. They beat him to death with their helmets.

In November, a 60-year-old man was shot at after his car scraped another in the middle of the afternoon. He managed to escape without injury.

Delhi is not, in general, a dangerous city. I’ve lived here eight years and in many ways it feels safer than London or New York. I’ve never heard of a mugging.

The exception is road rage. People routinely drive drunk, many are armed, and there is very little police enforcement on the roads.

As for my attackers, the security guards had taken their license number. We gave it to the police. They checked and said the car didn’t match the description. Maybe the guard got the number wrong. Maybe some one paid a bribe. That was the end of it.

Comments

  1. Very Sad to hear that you had to go through this kinda situation.
    Yesterday night I was roaming inside my society in South Delhi and then a Police Patrol came to me and asked me what are you doing here, they said to me go inside, this place is not safe.
    And I was inside the boundaries of my Society,if we are not safe here so where can be.
    Although yes Delhi is comparatively safe until you don’t mess with anyone.

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