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?
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.
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