Thursday, May 19, 2005

Terrified Traveller in Threatening Traffic

Traffic harasses us all. More so in a young city like Bangalore. The city doesn't have enough infrastructure to contain as many people as it does currently (the population is well over 1,00,00,000!) & city is full of yuppies with loads of cars! Traffic is bad all day but its worst in the evenings, 5-8 PM. With patience drying up and tempers soaring high, traffic is the easiest place to pick up fights. I have had my shares of altercations on roads. Two incidents:
Jha and me on my bike, going to Nandu's place. Time: around 9 PM. We were at a modest speed, following a Honda City. The signal turns red and trying to be the first at the stop line, Honda sways to its right, without any indication. I had to break hard to avoid any physical contact. Both of us were understandably furious. I got the bike next to the driver's side & knocked on the window, expecting to see some doped out yuppie or ultra-chic female with a who-gives-a-damn attitude. The shades were rolled down and I was little surprised to see an middle-aged uncle behind the wheel, with his wife (I assume) on the front seat and kids on the back seat. I was in full mood to use my vast arsenal of abuses, but held myself back. "What did you just do?! You just made a horrible cut back there". "The car in front of me made a cut, so did I". "Arre, there could've been an accident! Aren't you familiar with that thing called break in your car?". "Accident ho jata to ho jata, main kya karoon?".
I was heading towards my office one morning, late as usual. On an intersection, I was behind a Maruti Zen, to its right. The driver, not more than 25-26, was yapping on his mobile. We weren't really hard on accelerator (thankfully). All of a sudden, that fellow made a right turn, almost brushing off my front wheel. I was really p!ssed off and didn't stop myself from hurling abuses this time. He hit the break and I said, "What were you doing? Should've used the indicator!!". "Why were you trying to overtake on a chauraha? You should've honked!". "I wasn't overtaking, I'm anyway going straight". It went like this for a while, after which I gave up.
It shouldn't be taken as a holier-than-thou bragging, I'm really really deranged by drivers' attitude in India. No one seems to be really concerned about the rules. Whatever pitiful percentage of law-breakers are held up by the thullas, don't think twice before trying to bribe their way out, thus breaking another law. How indifferent are we about fellow drivers was best illustrated to me when I was on MG Road one night. It must be really late, the traffic lights were off by then. The chauraha had gone to dogs really! The chaos spread there were probably worse than disorder during the daytime. We aren't really worried about breaking the rules, we are worried only about saving the fine. The traffic police at Bangalore would certainly take the first place if they could shed off the lethargy to take part in some Most Lazy Cops Contest! Most of the time they are seen hidden in some cozy corner on a busy traffic signal. They don't care if rules are being broken right under their nose. I've seen them active only when some VIP caravan passes their spot.

Law enforcement is not the key to the solution. Prevention is always better than cure. Good driving habits are to be infused from early years. Not many learn driving from schools in India. The driving license can be bought easily, even without the basic knowledge about how to drive in traffic. And even parents don't present right image (like the uncle mentioned above). The rules while driving are quite obvious, most of us know them by intuition. Then why the hell we don't follow them?! Why should the auto-wallahs push their way until they block exactly 5.67 vehicles on every signal (on average)? Why should the bikers start even before the light's turned green? Why do we not give indicators?

Now that I've raised the questions, I would be cowardice on my part if I sneak away without attempting a reply. Yes, I also break traffic laws time to time. I've been apprehended by cops four times (three times I was able to get away using usual "student saaar" plea. One time I had to pay .. the bribe). My convenience was my main reason behind these acts. Mostly its like, "Hey, who'll go all the way. Let's go through one-way." or "No one's watching, take the u-turn!" or "it's still orange, still orange, still orange .. crossed!!". But I always give proper indicators and never talk on my mobile while driving. Other than convenience, carelessness is another major factor. Another important factor is dare-devilish instincts in some people. They'll install some noisy engines in their rickety vehicles and rattle all over the city on a break-neck speed; so it does. Impatience among drivers is one thing that I'll never comprehend. Especially among the bus drivers and auto drivers. The buses never reach anywhere on time and autos are not even on a schedule! What the hell is their problem? In many cases the reasons can only be imagined by some guru of human psychology. I've spent enough time over trying to figure out any rationality behind the chaos of traffic in India.

P.S.: I'm nothing less than proud of my attempt at making a good stitched photograph. Take a look at the fantabulous photograph here.


himanshu agrawal said...

going by the 2 incidents, start driving to the left of the vehicles :)
blore traffic really sucks big time

chutki said...

Tell me about it!An hour n a half long one-way drive to my workplace was enough for me to decide that enough was enough :) An anonymous quote:Driving's so frustrating.Anyone who drives slower than you is an idiot.Anyone who drives faster than you is a maniac ;-)