Blog | Thou Shalt Get Stuck In The Traffic
Rules? What rules??
Driving in India is a euphemism for a degree in cursing and swearing. With honours!
Indeed, the roads in India are a something of a cross between an F1 track and a bull-fight arena. You just cannot escape the confusion, the rush and the comedy. Even in my personal experience in driving whether in a city like Jamshedpur where the chaos is usually turned down; and in a big metro like New Delhi where it seems everybody is running away from Godzilla, the only rule that guides the Indian streets is: There is no rule!!
Being a part of the Indian traffic habits, one has to agree how irksome those mass movements on the streets are. Be it a political procession or those uncontrollable uncles and cousins dancing their lives out in the wedding march the street is indeed a public property. Use it as you may! And with litle shops and stalls claiming their major share, one actually has to squeeze one’s way out of the chaos. But these are still occasional worries. You have a lot more of their perpetual counterparts.
First, there are the very roads itself. The number of pots and holes every few hundred meters at times make you feel you are driving among the craters on the moon. However, the condition has drastically improved in Delhi. (Thank You Common Wealth Games! If not anything else, you did help this!) The bumps and the jerks and oohs and the aahs! Its like a physical abuse by them damn roads!! And the authorities are, well.. are they even there?
The next hurdle you have to negotiate is the people themselves. Now the people on roads can be broadly classified into the ones on foot and the ones driving themselves. Those on foot are such a pain. If there is a subway passage or an over-bridge to cross the road, why do you still jump bang in the middle of the traffic? The poor sight of a guy crossing a busy street sometimes reminds me of those video games we played as kids where you had to dodge the oncoming bullets. I don’t know what the problem is, but people simply choose to cross the road (with the accompanying entourage) in a manner that suggets as if the the entire team of Slumdog Millionaire is going to the stage to collect the award. It is just so annoying!
They are in a trance of their own. No regard for the oncoming traffic. No fear of life. Nothing can stop them. And if wicked Fate chooses your butt for all her jokes that day and you end up even caressing the one inch radius of one of these fearless marchers, my my my! You day is decided and done. After a fanfare accompanied drama on the very spot, creamed up by the most rotten expletives and stares from the ominous crowd that seems to have descended out of nowhere, you either shell out some prized cash from your wallet right then or are merrily escorted to the police station where you later have to shell out cash anyway to escape the rigours.
There is just no end to it. When it comes to the variety of these wrong people at the wrongest place at the wrongest time, depending on how bad one’s luck is; you could have kids, senior citizen, women or just a faker right under your wheels.
The other kind, where the people are driving themselves has its own variety of wierdness. You have truck drivers a.k.a. terminators. You have new drivers, who drive as if they are high! Then there are kids again on their wretched bicycles let loose right on the busiest streets…. Gosh! Dear Parents, this is real life, and NOT and audition for “India’s Got Talent”! And if you manage to dodge all of these, you have women who drive. Or at least they think they can. Although there are always those who are elusively the smoothest of drivers but then, life isn’t fair, right? So in abundance you have women who probably think that the rules in the kitchen apply on the roads too! So you have them rambling on from one extreme on the road to the other. They turn corners at their own whim. They stop dead whenever they feel like. And they change lanes in a fashion that can only be tered as a riddle.
But the worst among all, the ones that irritate me the most and the ones that I cannot escape even here in Jamshedpur, are the slow drivers. No I don’t mean that a person on wheels must become Evil Knievel (although if that could be true.. then wow!). But there is a certain speed which you must take on the road. I get people doodling their merry ways all the time.And the most irritating thing about them is that they do not budge! No matter how much you honk, no matter even if you shout or request, no matter if you have a fat trumpet player blowing his lungs out behind them, they are simply rock solid!
Although its not just people who make life on the road a dictionary of swears. We are a part of nature and so even when you drive, God continually reminds you so! Its dogs, cows, goats, pigs, hens, snakes, chimpanzees and what not! Its like the entire animal half of the biodiversity is set free on the good old streets! Twice have I crashed myself to save one of these poor souls! And I did not feel good about it! Twice!
At least living in Jamshedpur has spared me of one big drama. Thanks to the industrially planned and widely laid out streets here, we have never had a single traffic jam here till date. Although while my stay in Delhi, I did have my share of wait. Some stupid bloke’s car breaks down or some idiot rams into another or who knows what (coz, amazingly, you are always stuck at the back of these jams and have no idea what movies is being screened at the front)! On one such woeful occassion, the normal journey that usually took me forty minutes was stretched into a three hour wait right in under Delhi’s summer sun!
So from animals of nature to the most insane people out on the roads the list of traffic worries goes on. Its just endless! You can turn whenever and wherever you feel like. You can jump the signals like you own them. You can blabber on seamlessly on your cellphones and keep the entire city waiting behind you. You can do the entire Bharatnatyam while crossing the road. And you can invent tricks of your own to cause more confusion. What’s sad about all of it though, is that we have so defeatingly accepted all of it as a part and parcel of life. “Its wrong, but then that’s the way it is..”
And so, if some jughead twists the rules, hell yes, we will too!
The extent of justification of this attitude is debatable. But what is undisputably agreeable is that its nothing short of a circus on the roads. As to how you choose to be a part of it, well.. I leave that to your imagination.
Or crossing the streets.. whatever you are good at or otherwise!