Monday, May 26, 2008

Window with many views...

The mini-bus comes to sudden stop and I along with few of my colleagues board the bus, which would ply to my destination which is about 5 kms from where I reside. The day has just started and it's 8:30A.M. and the roads are already gridlocked. Congested roadways mean we spend hell lot of hours in traffic. Some newspaper reporter or township planning consultant would equate the lost hours in traffic to the surpassing loss of fuel, not to mention environmental damage, etc. In fact each one of us would have read endless stories on these topics, the infrastructure problems, few resolutions floated by citizen forums to curb this menace, being well aware that governmental action takes years to mature.

I am not going to repeat those chronicles again. This is my personal view from what I have seen, most of the people who quetch about traffic issues are master preachers. This should be done, doing things in that way would make the traffic flow seamlessly but those are the very same people who break the traffic rules, take a left turn when the small hoarding right in front says, 'No Left'. The same set of people who profess, that there is lot of pollution in the environment, are generally the ones who proudly own more than one vehicle which are fuel guzzlers and this is rigidly coupled with the environment contamination issues. You know this, I know this and we all know this. So let's leave the chapter closed here.

What I like, the most during my short long commute by bus is the colors, the multifariousness, the disparities that I see. The society, the changing dynamics of the economy, the emotions in action are the dominant players in this movie called 'The Race'.

Driving in city traffic does not involve a great deal of concentration because we are going through a route that we have traversed before at least more than 10 times and our minds are sort of automated to the flurry of external factors. But is it as smooth as it sounds in my words here? Definitely No.

Road rage and the sudden proliferation of irrational drivers are the prime traffic tremor creators. I feel that keeping aside the infrastructure shortcomings, most traffic jams aren't the result of an accident or a breakdown. The best place to show a child the dynamics of chain reaction is a busy traffic jam. I guess you are laughing now, or saying that I have gone crazy but tell me the truth have you encountered, this or not.

A driver reacts to another driver, more out of ego, disrespect for others, and non-acceptance of one's own fault than anything else. Imagine you are fiddling with the music player in your car, and unknowingly you get close to car in front, hit the brakes, but it's a bit too late. This small mistake can make a queue of vehicles for miles and one gets to hear, the blaring sounds of horns from vehicles. Now if the two people who were involved, in minor mishap would have behaved with a small pinch of maturity, by bringing both the cars aside from the main path and then got into an argument or verbal tussle, then the traffic would have coursed smoothly. A single erratic vehicle can trigger feedback effects that push the entire system into state of stand stillness often denying passage for emergency passengers on the road such as a loaded cab plying to the airport, an ambulance transporting a patient to a specialized hospital in another corner of the city, etc.

How can you be on the road and miss the ubiquitous auto rickshaws. Often known for charging more than the accepted rates, I can see from my bus, an auto rickshaw driver bargaining with a lady, with one hand bent down with the laptop bag and the other carrying the lunch box, rushing to her workplace. 'Madam, traffic jam, madam one and half'. The lady finally agrees and the three wheeled speed demon snakes its way through bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Suddenly my eyes catch glimpse of some of the most adept multi-taskers and acrobats. True to the punch line of Hutch Telecom Services, which goes as 'Wherever you go our network follows', I find many people on bikes and on cars uttering, blabbing and talking on their mobile hand sets, completely oblivious of the outside cacophony. I also get to see benign material side of India's growing economy. After more decades of socialist deprivation, when consumer goods were so limited, today I see the latest models in gadgets right from my bus window. Laptops with plug in data cards for connectivity to the internet even when in transit, Blackberries synced with office e-mail box pumping in messages, iPhones, iPods playing music are no longer scenes restricted to the western world. I see these panoramas amidst traffic.

Earlier seen only on weekends, now seven days a week is their new schedule. I am referring to eunuchs in their usual makeup and sari. Clapping their hands and tapping the closed windows of the cars/jeeps if they are closed asking for money is a usual sight. Those in bikes and auto rickshaws pass on a one or two rupee coin to the eunuchs, immediately to avoid being hassled. Today one- or two-rupee coin has lost its value in general and the eunuchs at times turn aggressive when the amount tendered to them is less than five rupees.

I see, a long 'Q' of cars with the stickers of the various MNC firms on the rear glass, generally on one corner. Few small kids tap the rolled up windows asking for a rupee, probably that would buy them few peanuts or half cup of tea. Suddenly few bikes driven by handsome boys carrying their helmets, their stylish girl friends as pillion riders, dressed in thin sweaters over tights, short boots, high heeled boots, scarves tied snappily around their necks zip-zap-zoom past my bus. Just then I lift my head to see, a new billboard, sporting the flamboyant Vijay Mallaya and it has a catchy punch line 'King of Good Times'.

Right next to the billboard stands, a mother bony thin in physical built and carries a child in a thick blanket wrapped around her waist. The matted hair of the child has a dull look and the mother stares at another lady sitting inside an air conditioned car pampering her may be five year old kid with fresh fruits for breakfast.

You, I and everyone else feel good that India is in on a rapid economic transformation ride but for few, life seems very much the same.

Took this one in a traffic Jam

The mother with her kid now shifts towards the new shopping arcade, hoping that someone would give her an amount that would feed her and her kid for the day. But no luck as the city's rich and nouveau either had spent their money buying Parisian lingerie, Swarovski crystals, FCUK apparels, flat-screen TVs, Virgin mobiles, Calvin Klein jeans, DVD players, digi-cams, and more and more and more or they are just not bothered.

My mind has been wandering across these various boulevards, intermittently flipping through the pages of 'In Spite of the Gods', tapping the window pane of the bus, suddenly to realize that the vehicle has come to a stop and its time for me to enter a classy office corridor.

Now this one is an interesting news that I read recently as to how the Royal Thai Traffic Police, trained 145 of its officers in basic midwifery. The reasons were to help newborn kids needing some help when stuck in the traffic, with their parents and to assist pregnant ladies deliver in traffic. The full story is here.

So next time onwards, don't crib when you are stuck in the traffic. Keep your eyes open and I can assure you a wide kaleidoscope of human emotions, expressions and behavioral patterns to view.

Keep reading and remain connected.

(Note: The picture was taken in Mumbai when stuck in a traffic jam.)

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At 9:46 AM, Blogger Ni said...

Nice one.. you should start travelling in BMTC. You get to see a lot of life there and a roller coaster ride for free! :)

At 1:45 PM, Blogger Pradeep said...

Couldn't agree with u more. Traffic chaos and jams are world-wide phenomena, but the negative and hypersensitive reaction to it, is perhaps very Indian, and sadly nothing to brag about.


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