The rightmost lane that you would never dream of taking? That's the best place to be during those iftar-time drives.
Beware the Fasting and the Furious on roads before iftar
If you want to keep your sanity - and the sanctity of your fast - intact, then try not to get behind the steering wheel this Ramadan.
Driving doesn't mix very well with abstinence from food and drink all day. You will see evidence of this on the roads all day, all throughout the month, though the situation exacerbates the closer you get to iftar time.
Poker-faced drivers have their eyes fixed on the prize (their iftar destination) and they want to get there as fast as possible. They are willing to risk driving you off the road in the process. Changing lanes without indicating, cutting lanes two at a time, driving 40 kph above the speed limit and sidling up behind you, blinding you with their beams if you dare be in their way.
One of my good friends calls this phenomenon "The Fasting and the Furious".
Over the years, I've had enough brushes with The Fasting and the Furious to know better than to be on the roads during the half-hour before the call for maghrib prayer. But sometimes it's inevitable. When you are invited out for iftar, for instance. It's bad manners to show up more than 10 minutes before the fast opens. Your hosts will be busy with last-minute preparations if the iftar is at home. If it's outside, the restaurant staff will nervously regard you as they lay out the buffet. Nope, it's best to show up five to 10 minutes before the call for prayer. That means risking being on the road when The Fasting and the Furious are at their best - or worst.
The other day my husband and I had the good fortune of having to drive all the way from Oud Metha to Ibn Battuta Gate Hotel for an iftar. Thirty-odd kilometres of sharing the road with drivers with a death wish - including the wild-haired, 20-something Ferrari driver (who gesticulated wildly - and rudely - when we didn't get out of the way fast enough. Forget about the fact that there were cars on either side of us, which kind of makes it tricky to switch lanes) and the bald, 50-something Accord driver, the drive just proved that the phenomenon affects everyone, regardless of age or nationality.
After about 20 minutes of this hair-raising madness, we parked the car in the underground parking of the hotel and heaved a sigh of relief. No, this was not something we wanted to experience again anytime soon.
A few days later, we received another iftar invite. "There is no way I am going out again," said my husband, reminding me of our serene drive down Sheikh Zayed Road a few days earlier.
And so I ended up on my own and behind the wheel on this particular occasion. After a few minutes, I kind of figured out a way to keep the worst of it at bay. For starters, don't even think about driving in the fast lane. Drive as far away from it as possible. The rightmost lane that you would never dream of taking? That's the best place to be during those iftar-time drives. Second, put on some good relaxing music and try to sing along. It helps to have your lips busy when you are tempted to mouth not-so-niceties at fellow drivers.
Of course, the easiest way to avoid becoming a casualty at the hands of The Fasting and the Furious is to simply have your iftar at home. Eat, drink and be merry. Most importantly, stay alive.
Ujala Ali Khan lives in Dubai and loves all things desi