‘Perilous’ memories from Lahore traffic

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‘Perilous’ memories from Lahore traffic

Researcher Doğan Yücel wrote about the constantly dense Lahore traffic. Narrating his quest in purchasing a car and getting a driver’s license as well, Yücel also shared the accounts of the traffic accidents in which he had been involved.

With its 10-million plus population, Lahore is a traffic pell-mell in true sense of the word. Since it is a historical city, the roads and lanes in the Old City are quite narrow. However, wide, spacious and smooth roads have been built in the newly established districts.

One day, a colleague of mine, who was a Maths teacher, was driving me from our school in Gulberg to somewhere for a social visit. Just as we were driving past the Gulberg cemetery, a van approached us from the opposite direction. Since the van had almost centred the narrow lane, my colleague wished to draw our car a bit closer to the side to avoid the van. In Pakistan, pavements are rare if you are not on a main street. My colleague was not speeding but while drawing aside, he nudged gently at a traffic constable who was walking by the road. The officer fell and my colleague stopped the car instantly. Unexpectedly, the officer sprung up almost immediately, opened the car door and sat on the backseat. He was completely conscious and did not seem to be injured at all. I told my colleague, “He looks alright. Speak English with him. If I speak, I will definitely say some Urdu words and that may delay us here.”

The officer was convinced when he heard the ‘Kalima-e-Tauheed’

They spoke for a while until I could not help but exclaim, ‘Kya!’ (‘What!’ in Urdu). Hearing that, the traffic constable said to me, “You know Urdu! Now I will really show you what it means to run over a police officer!” When we turned to the service road leading from the Firdaus Market to the Main Road, he commanded us, “Drive towards the Firdaus Market!” I said to my colleague, “No, let’s drive on our intended route.” The constable fumed and grumbled in the backseat. When we reached in front of the Hafeez Centre five minutes later, he asked us, “Where are you from?” We replied, “We are Turkish, we are from Turkey.” When he asked us, “Are you Muslim?” I said to my mathematician colleague, “Come on, utter the Kalima-e-Shahadah (which is memorized as Doosra Kalima Shahadah in Pakistan) and let him believe us.” When my colleague uttered the Kalima-e-Shahadah, the constable said, “No, it is not satisfactory!” possibly due to my colleague’s pronunciation. I asked my colleague to utter the Kalima-e-Tauheed (which is memorized as Pehle Kalima Tayyeb in Pakistan) this time. When he uttered ‘La ilaha illAllah, Muhammadur Rasulullah’ in a manner to profess his Islamic faith, the constable said, “Okay, I am convinced now.” He told us he would be going to the Jail Road, which was on our route. We dropped him at his destination. Meanwhile, we also explained to him about ourselves and the reason why we had been in Lahore. Before parting, we exchanged mutual blessings and apologies. He thanked us a lot while leaving the car.

I would not have fined you, if you had told me earlier!

On that day, I had visited some bookstores in the Urdu Bazaar. On my way back, I was waiting at one of the traffic signals on the Mall Road, near the Wapda House. Suddenly, I remembered I had something else to do. Without thinking, I took an immediate left turn from the signal. Since the motorcyclists generally waited for the signal on the left oncoming lane, a motorcyclist could not stop and he ran into the side of my car. I stopped and apologized to the motorcyclist. He had his family on the pillion as well. He said, “No problem!” They stood up and they looked fine. Meanwhile, a traffic constable came from the other side of the road and said to me, “You have just committed an offense!” He asked to see my driving license. After issuing me the ticket, he realized from my accented Urdu that I was a foreigner. He asked me where I was from and when I told him, “I am from Turkey”, he said, “If you had told me that earlier, I would not have fined you!” I replied, “Rules must be obeyed, sir!” On the next day, I paid the fine at the bank and went to the police centre to get my driving license back.

Three years after my arrival in Lahore, I felt the need to buy a car as a necessity of the married life and busy school routine. I had already saved some money and adding the prize award I had received from the Turkish Olympiad, I had enough money to buy a car fit enough to take us around the city. I visited a few parents who had car showrooms. Finally, I decided on a Suzuki. I was to get the car registered in the name of a Pakistani friend at first. However, I had a problem. I did not have any driving experience, so I sat in the passenger seat as my friend drove the car to a mechanic named Rasul Khan for inspection. Rasul Khan checked the car and endorsed it by saying, “This car deserves its price, you can purchase it.” When I wanted to test-drive the car, my friend reminded me of my own saying, “You said you did not know how to drive a car.” I said, “Well, I am used to driving a small-size tractor.” He laughed and said, “Well, okay, I’ll help you.”

He assigned me his driver as my driving tutor

After that, I sat in the driver’s seat and reversed the car from its parked location. As I thought I had changed the gear to move the car forward, I stepped on the accelerator instead of the clutch. A minivan and a car were parked behind after the completion of their bodywork and paintwork. I slammed fast at the driver’s side of the car which swerved and hit the minivan parked next to it. The back bumper of my car was crumpled too. My first test drive attempt took approximately ten seconds only. Without any excuse, I had to purchase the car hell or high water. I and my friend walked out of that mechanic’s shop where we had entered in a car. I had to pay for the paintwork and bodywork of three cars, including mine. On the next day, my Pakistani friend assigned me his driver as my driving tutor. After driving with him for a couple of days, I started driving the car all by myself. I had not paid for any driving school; I had paid that price by paying for the bodywork of three cars instead.

It was December 2014. My wife was attending to a language school to learn English along with some of her friends. I used to shuttle them between home and school. On that day, I was to pick up my wife from a bus stop near the language school. She called me and said she had missed the stop. I told her to get off in the next stop. I sped along the narrow lanes in our neighbourhood to catch up with her. When I reached at a junction, I saw a taxi approaching. The driver had seen me and slowed down. I thought he would pass without changing his speed, so I drove on. I slammed at the side of the taxi. On impact, I had also hit my head on the steering wheel. I did not remember what happened next. I opened my eyes in a hospital. Actually, I had been transferred among hospitals and had undergone a surgery as well. I remained in the hospital for some time. 

I guess he could not digest what he went through; he came and hit us!

I was driving from the Cavalry Ground to Gulberg. I was busy searching for an address before driving through the overpass. The red light turned to green and I drove on with the rest of the cars. A van was driving in front of me. While I was busy looking around and trying to catch the glimpse of the landmarks of the address, I ran into the van with a loud thud. We were not speeding at all. Public vans and buses in Pakistan have iron railings for bumpers in the front and the back. The back guardrail of the van had impaled the radiator of my car. Meanwhile, neither the van driver stopped nor any of the passengers looked back to see what had happened. I remained stuck in the middle of the road in a car with a blown radiator. On another day, I ran into a van on my way to the Kalma Chowk through the road next to the Punjab University. The driver of the van stopped and got off. When he saw that the guardrail was in place, he got back on and drove.

It was a Friday. I had picked my children from the Main Campus and was driving to the Tariq Gardens. I had limited time, so I had to drive fast. Driving through the OPF Colony, I saw a car speeding towards us. I pressed on the horn and flashed the headlights, but the driver did not seem to notice. He simply came and ran into my car. I asked him, “Mister, what have you done?” He apologized, “I am sorry! I was preoccupied with something!” I had him pay for the repairs at one of his acquaintances’ workshop. I do not remember the exact number of paintworks done on my car 😊

I was driving to our house in Wapda Town. My wife and child were on the front passenger seat and two colleagues were on the backseat. Approaching to the stream near the Wapda Town, I saw a car speeding towards us from the opposite – and the wrong – direction on the innermost of the three lanes. I did not yield way. He stopped and I stopped too. As three colleagues, we got off the car and told him that he could have taken a U-turn some metres back. We also told him that accidents happened due to the offenses like his. He was alone and, having encountered three young and bulky men, he said, “Alright!” and took a turn to set his course straight. He was driving slowly, so I sped up and overtook him. However, I guess the man could not digest what he had gone through; he suddenly sped and hit our car from the passenger side where my wife was sitting. The front passenger door had caved in. Meanwhile, the man drove fast to escape. I chased him and after a pursuit of five or ten minutes, he managed to disappear in the narrower lanes of the neighbourhood.

Everyone likes driving on long beams at night

We visited the nearest police station and I filed a complaint. We provided the details – number plate, colour, and make – of the car which had hit mine. The officers assured us by saying, “We will have caught him within two hours at most.” After waiting for a while, we went with the police to the spot where we had that experience. Meanwhile, a man on a donkey cart was riding on the innermost lane in the same manner that driver had done hours ago. I asked the police, “Why don’t you discourage these people?” He must have considered these as ordinary scenes. The officers once again assured us by saying, “We will inform you after arresting the driver.” Hours and days passed after that promise. Approximately a year later, I encountered the same car driven by the man near the Wapda Town. Something boiled in me to urge, “Go on, take the opportunity! Go and slam at his car too!” I noticed he had his family on board and I thought aggression would not solve anything. I said to myself, “Let him go and stew in his own juice!” I did not see that car once again.

One of the most crucial issues in Lahore traffic is the way people drive with their long beams on at nights. Some drivers are not satisfied with the factory-issued headlights and install additional ones on their vehicles. Some drivers install reflector films or curtains on the back windows to shield themselves against stabbing long beams. I was driving on the service road extending from the Shaukat Khanum Hospital to the Canal Road. I was near Lahore Expo Centre. A driver had switched on all headlights and was driving towards me. I could not see anything clearly. I stopped my car in a way to force the approaching car to stop too. We were two, and the man was alone. When we got off the car, the man was afraid. It was late at night and there was no one around. He must have thought we were robbers. I asked the man a bit sternly why he used long beams on the well-lit streets of the city and told him I had not been able to see anything on my path. The man looked relieved. He switched down to the low beam and we yielded way to him.

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