Late evening on Friday, I was travelling by car from Delhi to Agra, to attend the Taj Literary Festival. Driving on the New Yamuna Expressway was a pleasure. I was going to Agra for the first time and was quite excited about it. A few minutes into the drive, I got to know, through twitter of course that earlier in the day there was a massive pile up involving 30 cars, on the same expressway. Over 20 people had been injured. Delhi and its neighbouring areas, I would learn later, had experienced the heaviest fog for that year on Friday. Visibility had been near zero levels that morning. Thankfully by evening, which is when I was heading to Agra, the fog had cleared up and everything was normal.
We crossed Mathura. Hardly any traffic on the road. Clear visibility. Relaxed driver and a relaxed me. I got a call from the event organisers. I told them that I was about 60 to 70 km from Agra and that I would reach there in 45 minutes. Hardly had I spoken these words, that things began to change.
We did not know what hit us. It came all of a sudden and did not give us a chance to react. Suddenly, as if from nowhere, heavy fog descended. It came in waves. It seemed as if we were driving into a cloud. A moving, descending and a wavy cloud of white. Visibility went from 100% to close to 0% in less than 10 seconds. At a speed of 100 kmph it translated to about 275 metres for visibility going from full to nil. The driver was tactful, he brought the car to a near halt and thereon drove slowly and carefully. Picking up speed when the visibility improved and dropping speed when the fog hit us. ( the fog cleared and arrived at random). I was told that whenever we went past large tracts of farmland such a intermittent fogging was quite common…and often the cause of accidents.
But it was what the driver did on hitting the fog, that really got me thinking. He slowed down the car speed dramatically and went from high beam to low beam. Curious that a high beam would get him a better view of the area ahead, I asked him why he shifted to low. What he replied taught me a lesson in life. He said, “at a high beam, the light will be thrown up in the air. And in the low visibility caused by the fog, the dispersed light will be of no use. It will hardly show him anything that he cannot see without the high beam. On the other hand, the low beam/ normal beam focus all the light and throws it on the floor on the road right ahead of the car. Because of that he is clearly able to see the road, the white line on the road, and by following that at a slow speed, he would be much safer than following the path shown by the high beam of dispersed light. Simple isn’t it? Didn’t strike me. Probably I haven’t driven in a fog for long and hence didn’t know about it.
If I look back at our life, at various points in time, we face difficult foggy situations. And often we try to beat our way out of those situations with aggression, denial, and complete lack of focus. Instead we can learn from what the driver taught me. When encountered with difficult situations in life, it might do us a world of good to slow down our pace (so that we remain in control), switch to a more focused approach ( like he Low Beam of light, so that the path IMMEDIATELY ahead of us becomes visible and clear) and like the driver followed the white line on the road, we also follow a goal, a milestone, which is good enough to keep our head above water and progress ahead. And like my efficient driver cashed in by increasing speed whenever the fog cleared and before we hit the next wave, we too much cash in on opportunities life provides us and in the process be better prepared for the next phase of fog that can hit us anytime in this unpredictable life.