Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Stop being a Road Terrorist

I am not a video game buff. But there is one game that I play every day. This game has innumerable challenges, obstacles, and a clock that keeps ticking before I reach my destination. The rules are puzzling because only I seem to follow them. Yes.  I drive a car in the Mad Mumbai traffic. All that this game says is players should be cognizant of the 3Ps (Potholes, Pedestrians, Pandus) and 3Bs (Bikers, Buses and Blaring horns). A word of caution - Understanding the 3Ps and Bs will make you adept at driving, but do not venture out without a health and life insurance since the Road Terrorists are out to get you!


1.       Potholes – ‘Road me gadda ya gadde me road, tu tension mat le, jaane de chod’ goes a guy on the radio as I rollercoaster my way up a hill where there is a pothole even on a speed breaker while going uphill. Why do they even take the trouble of building speedbreakers in India I wonder?   I tried complaining through various mediums, but everyone says the road doesn’t fall under their purview.
Politicians/Corporators with your tall manifestos – Either give us better healthcare facilities to cure breaking backs or repair those roads completely instead of ignoring or dumping on the road a thin superficial layer that only makes the road even more uneven than ever before!

2.       Pedestrians – The responsibility of ensuring road safety apparently lies solely with the motorists in India. In a country where motorists do not respect pedestrians, why should pedestrians respect motorists? If motorists do not stop at red signals for them to let them cross, of course, they will exact their revenge by starting to walk when it’s your green signal. Well actually, when pedestrians start crossing, it is a sign that the signal is green!  Pedestrians also usually walk in the middle of the road with earphones or mobiles in their ears and do not give a damn as your brakes squeal behind them after honking. Pedestrians are also so used to encroached footpaths that when presented with an un-encroached footpath, they shy away from it fearing it is cursed to walk on it and spill out on the road. 
Guys in your two and four wheelers - it is a good idea to let these poor guys cross the road when the signal is red. YOU BLIND MEN, please wait behind a certain real or imaginary white line that gives space and lets people cross safely at your red signal! And footpaths if not encroached are not for bikers to ride. On their part, Pedestrians will then cooperate by not jaywalking in the middle of the roads.

Encroached footpaths and people crossing over dividers

3.       Pandus or Police – They are the important guys of the road who everyone fears usually found near red signals. If there is a pandu as they are fondly called in Mumbai, then people wait at signals, and break fewer rules. These guys are usually a harried lot, standing in the scorching sun and pollution for long hours, haggling with errant drivers for petty bribes, turning a blind eye to BEST buses breaking rules or bikers who they know they cannot catch. I don’t really know whether to appreciate the hard work for their low pay or to blame them for what is happening on the streets of Mumbai.
I wish, they invoked enough fear in motorists to believe no bribe would work to enable them to get away and that errant drivers would be caught, reprimanded and penalized very heavily. It is also time we stopped taking these guys for granted and believing that we can get away by paying petty bribes.

4.       Bikers – A large chunk of this species believe they are as tiny as ants and can wiggle their way through any amount of traffic, climb on any footpath, have the right of way on both sides of the road, break major and minor signals at breakneck speed or block roads at signals in their egoistic fight to be at the very front of the line.
I ask, can’t these annoying errant bikers exhibit a mite of patience to stop clambering over pedestrians on footpaths and taking every plausible road on the wrong side if there is no pandu to catch them? 

Chaos!
5.       Blaring horns - ‘Honking is my birthright and I will honk it. Pippepiipii.’ This seems to be the motto of every motorist in India. As though honking makes traffic move. As though, signals turn green by honking, as though pedestrians pay any attention to it.  Everyone is in a tearing hurry to reach their destination. I don’t get how honking speeds things up!
Although extensive campaigns by traffic police can be seen at major junctions, why is the plea to stay calm so ignored? I cannot help but curse all the incessant honkers and hope they all go deaf one day. Can the government really not clamp down on the car and bike companies who provide such horns in the vehicle and make it prohibitively expensive to buy them from independent shops?  For drivers in AC cars, just because you cannot hear the honk loudly enough, does not mean that, it gives you a right to blow others’ ears off! I wish there were a reverse horn invented for cars and fixed mandatorily that would sound twice as loud inside when honked on the outside!

6.       Buses - Stay away from these unfriendly elements as far as possible. BEST Drivers are not only rash but they are also bullies. They will crush you unmindfully in their quest to get ahead of you or because they don’t like you. Buses will drive only in the middle of the road so you cannot overtake them. Keep a safe distance from them, as they screech to a stop right in the middle of the road to pick up passengers from the bus stop at the extreme left. If the bus stop is really far left, then beware of them swerving frequently to and from the rightmost lane and the leftmost lanes. The bus drivers derecognize Yellow and Red as colors and see only Green. These guys have no qualms, can rarely be apprehended and little that you can argue. They also honk incessantly. Stay Away from them.
What can be changed, is some training to these drivers and higher penalties/increased suspensions to stop them from flouting rules the way they do. I wonder if we citizens can call for a motion against them for irrational driving.

Well, there are a whole lot of other factors one needs to be mindful of, but this blog would be too long then. Big vehicles, Zigzagging autorickshaws, the stray kids who run amuck on the streets, dogs who refuse to move from the middle of the road till you are almost over them, mobile phone gabbers, preening women drivers and roadside squatters and peddlers. Red Lights did you ask? Well, those we see, but have never been mindful of them except when the Pandu is around. no? .  Oprah Winfrey on her visit to India, asked if Red Lights were for fun on Indian roads. Since we all value foreigners’ opinions so much, perhaps it is time to pay heed and see some wisdom in her words instead of only raving about her sari. When we finally do, that’s when I will include the Rs – Red Signals, Right Lanes and Road Sense in here.
Amber is the new Green!
The latest world-wide statistics released by International Road Federation (IRF) reveal that 1,19,860 people are killed in road accidents every year in India as reported by the Economic Times. DNA reports that the number of accidents in Mumbai is 23,440 in 2010 with 560 deaths. This is far higher than any terror attack we have had. I welcome any bill that brings on enhanced fines, stringent punishments and lesser tolerance of repeat offenders.  Till such a bill is passed, we need to bring about discipline. All that needs to be done is to be patient, stop trying to outrace others and respect the milling crowds and fellow motorists around. Stop being a road terrorist. Go on, follow rules, be the change and lead by example for safer roads.

If you are on Indiblogger and if you like my post, I will  be honored and delighted if you promote it here.

36 comments:

  1. I can feel the anger and helplessness in this beautifully analysed piece on road terror. I remember you writing about this immediately after your return too. So I can imagine what driving on the roads of this great country is doing to your sanity and peace of mind.

    A European friend had remarked that our drivers qualify hands down to race in the hardest of car rallies and win!

    All the best for the contest :)

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    1. Thanks! It is a circus out there. Everyone is almost on the brink of hitting someone or something. I wonder at how we all are still surviving on these roads as drivers, pedestrians or onlookers.

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  2. This is the reason I don't drive, Richa. I have been called a coward, but ... I know what you mean when you find that you are the only one following the rules, because as a pedestrian I find that I cannot cross the road and am forced to, sometimes, jaywalk. It is an understatement when we say that traffic is a nightmare and most people on it road terrorist.

    Good luck for the contest, Richa.

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    1. Yes .. pedestrians are so scared of crossing the roads now... They infact watch you with suspicion when you actually stop your car allowing them to cross the road. I suppose they are afraid that you might be just inviting them to start crossing and then mow them down!

      The other thing I have noticed these days is the utter disregard for the Pandus by the 2-wheeler riders.. I see them just whizzing past the cops on a red light with no regret or respect for authorities... very well knowing that the pandus are ill-equipped to catch them especially when the 2-wheelers break rules en masse.

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    2. Sudha, Sandeep - I completely empathize with pedestrians and usually let them cross even when its my green signal. It is unfortunate that they are treated as though they don't deserve to be on the roads by the supposedly high and mighty in their gaddis. Road terrorism totally needs to stop.

      I have seen the suspicious looks you speak of too. So much that even after you ask them to cross, they don't! Two wheelers riders are a serious menace to the city and need to be penalized even more heavily for their scant respect to laws and others' lives.

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  3. Absolutely bingo, Richa! A good topic and very well written! With the ever increasing traffic, it is only getting tougher for the person out there in the midst of it all with his precious life at stake. And what's worse is that, everyone here seems to be busy enjoying the game by his/her own rules, deadly if you ask me!! Indeed, it's high time we changed!

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    1. I am keeping my fingers crossed for the new laws that were under consideration. We fast need to rein in those errant drivers.

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  4. Good blog and you have made interesting too. One more menace on many roads in non-metros is driving on the wrong side of the road with impunity. I would pardon a two wheeler for driving on the wrong side of the road, but have seen many four wheelers also doing the same thing and nobody to object leave aside fining them. Only one blessing in disguice I can see on Indian city roads despite all the problems is due to all the hindrances the speed at which the traffic moves is slow and hence the accidents are less severe vis-a-vis other countries where average speed is about 80KM per hour.

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  5. I don't understand why you would pardon two wheelers' driving on the wrong side. Just because they are a little smaller, does not mean they aren't a nuisance and a danger.
    Agreed, that at the low speeds we atleast have fewer fatalities but it is no consolation for the inefficiencies.The best solution would be high speeds and no chaos :)

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  6. Analysed like a true management guru, it is a well-charted map of the battlefield, i.e., the mad-roads of Mumbai. I deeply detest all the 3P's and the 3B's but the Pandus are my pet peeves. My car happens to have a Rajasthan license plate and the sick idiots start salivating at the very sight of it. Yes, I do have each and every piece of parchment complete and duly keep them stacked along with a 100 rupee note. Yet, I do bump into some who keep wanting more. "Show me the NOC!" As if I were a citizen of Afghanistan!

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    1. Thanks! I find myself liking the true management guru part . If, only Pandu's paid attention to the true miscreants instead of going after innocent motorists only because they are from another part of India! Thank God, you actually don't have a car from Nepal or any neighbouring country in here!

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  8. Rucha, I think Mumbai has a very disciplined traffic and better roads compared to Pune. Pune has its own style of running over Pedestrians , not caring about signals and even driving on footpaths. LOL!! :) .

    This is a good read. I remembered how I enjoyed (:D) driving in Pune. Nice article Rucha :)

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    1. I wish, Manasi, it were as you say it is. I almost feel Pune and Mumbai have reversed their traffic discipline. At pune, ppl actually did not jump lights and here its so chaotic now unlike only a couple or three years back. I am sure you won't like driving anywhere now unless you like playing video games for all the challenges!

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  9. Good one Ru. Clearly traffic in India is getting worse by the day. I am already scared to drive on those roads when we relocate!

    The one thing that annoys me in India is people driving right ON the white, lane dividing lines. No one seems to give a damn about that. I feel sorry for the guys who spend hours measuring and painting those lines on the asphalt. What's worse is, even the so called 'heroes' of bollywood are shown driving ON the lane dividing line instead of between them & obviously the stupid fans think it is 'cool' to do just that. These 'heroes' should realize the power they have on a layman's brain and exercise that power to make things right.

    If only they followed lane traffic * sigh * not only would the traffic be smooth, but also fast! Wish they could understand that their 'brownian-motion-driving' only creates more chaos and a more streamlined the traffic, the faster & easier it is!!! Ugh!

    As for the pedestrians, they've just got to do what they got to do. If they wait for the signal to turn green on them, they'll just have to stand there all day, isn't it?!

    Good luck for the contest!

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  10. hahaha. Sweetheart, if only people restricted themselves to the white line!:). I only see people driving completely on the other side of the road, as if it were US and a left hand drive! Come to think of it, I don't even remember seeing lines on most roads or the brownian motion (hah -I liked that apt description) has made me blind to them anyway. I guess along the way authorities gave up on lanes just like I did.
    When you come here, get a helmet to be out on the roads.

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  11. You have summed up the chaos that is India in one post. Great effort!

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  12. You narrated the state for all of us. It was a hilarious take on a serious situation...All the best for the contest!

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  13. Hahha, when will people change for good, is what I ask myself daily while I commute!

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    1. I wonder when too. Hopefuly someday!

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  14. you have definitely raised a good issue ..and i wish if such things change then it would be good for all...promoted it! All the best for the contest buddy! Nw I am planning on similar lines for the contest :D :P Thanks for opening my eyes

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    1. Thanks for promoting it. Wish you good luck for the contest too!

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  15. Well..You may as well have written about Bangalore. It seems all so familiar. In addition, we also have big jams with the traffic stagnant or just creeping forward. And it can be that way for hours. But, it seems to be on the mend these days. These days I see folks more often paying up traffic fines and collecting the receipts. So though bribes may not be totally out, it's certainly reduced.

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    1. I am glad it is on the mend now atleast somewhere. From the looks of it, Mumbai seems to be deteriorating by leaps and bounds.

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  16. I love the very apt pics and the dry humour with which you've drawn our attention to this dangerous, each-one-for-themselves indifference to road rules.

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    1. Thanks KayEm. I hope people stop driving with such indifference once they realize how dangerous their behavior can be.

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  17. excellently picturized. a real mind opener.

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  18. Very apt description of Mumbai traffic.one of the tiresome part of my commuting is to cross junctions specially mahalaxmi station where vehicles don't let pedestrians to cross the road.And pandas are of no help to manage traffic.

    The mantra of today drivers nowadays have become::
    To slow is to falter;to brake is to fail &to stop is to defeat.

    Keep blogging

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    1. Hahahaha. I loved your mantra totally. You have hit the nail on the head when you talk about the giant sized egos of these pathetic rule-breaking motorists.

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  19. I travel around in the busy streets of Bangalore on my bicycle and most of the times I am at the mercy of the Road terrorists. Good topic to write upon for a change

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    1. I completely empathize with you. I ride around a bike to around the block and the Road terrorists believe that I am not entitled to be on the road and they have every right to corner me and kill me!

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