Sunday, April 15, 2007

Between a cow and ‘chunnu munnu te papa di gaddi’

Ai hai… have you seen the traffic in India? I’ve been around…if you know what I mean… And I’ve seen a lot of this country. Rather I’ve narrowly skidded, swerved, survived the roads, actually what plies on the roads. From flashy Mercs at the Bombay Gymkhana to gaudy Beemers at Taj Land’s End, from bassy Hummers in Koregoan to monstrous Volvos on the Ahmedabad-Vadodara highway, from raddiwalah trucks at Azadpur mandi to gannewalah tractors on the Ambala-Karnal turning, from rickety autos near Charminar to polluting state transport buses before CNG revolutionized Delhi, from zooming motorbikes with young boys ogling at college going girls in Kanpur to slow scooters weighed down by a fat father, fatter mother and two plump children in the streets of Karolbagh...I seen it all!

Holy cow! I guess that’s in tradition with my cultural ethos… or is it an expletive?? Did I just swear, mother of god!!! Forgive me father for I have sinned, but I’d like to shoot some of these cows that amble along the road with no thought of the past, present or future and just as suddenly park their arse in the middle of the road, while the vehicles careen, attempting not to bump into each other, screeching to a halt. No one’s loud about it, but each driver at this point of time is cursing all the cows to kingdom come, like there’s no tomorrow. Who let the cows out? Who? Who? Who?

Another question… who issued driving licenses to some of these drivers? Positively nasty, they don’t know when to use the indicators, when to honk and they seem to be driving with one foot on the brakes. In the night the road is a sea of blinking red lights in front of you and a floodlit stadium behind you. It’s a miracle that you get home safe and sound, in one piece, for you’ve been driving with your eyes closed for a long time dodging the full beam headlights, courtesy the fellow motorists. Scream, shout, tear your hair out, nothing works it’s a madhouse out there. Like playing dodgeball, driving in the streets in India is more an art of finding empty spaces and maneuvering the car there and then looking for the next spot. Of course, traffic jams are a different ball game altogether. If you haven’t been in one, you’ve seen nothing of India. And if you haven’t been in one, read no further, ’cos there’s no way you can read about it and get a feel for it. It’s one of those things in life that have to be experienced.

I’ll tell you anyway. You seem to be the persevering type. That reminds me, perseverance is a virtue on the roads. Especially during jams! It’s what restrains you from giving in to your dark side, slitting your own throat, strangulating the driver in front of you, breaking a couple of windshields and shoving the jaw down the throat of the lady who’s on the phone and not moving an inch when the jam has somewhat cleared out. Perseverance and patience and the simple sane knowledge that if you did any of the above mentioned acts you’d have to deal with the cops…and you don’t want that!

Imagine a hot June afternoon, blazing sun that hurts the eyes (in fact it seems like the eyes have melted)… you are at a crossroad and there’s a flashy sedan in front of you. You can see the driver; she’s on the phone and applying lipstick at the same time. Next to you is a fat pot bellied man in a small dinky car; he’s so fat that the steering wheel seems to be performing a gastric bypass surgery. Sweat pouring down in rivulets down your neck, despite the air conditioning in the car. You forgot to bring your own music, so you elected to listen to the radio instead. But that was a very bad choice because the RJ is shouting banal inanities now about audience who’ve written to her about the nature of her mellifluous voice. You think ‘are they crazy? This is the most irritating voice you’ve ever heard. Does her beau stuff cotton in his ears?’ The light is green, but the lady on the phone refuses to budge and the fat man just burped. Small mercies that your car is all boarded up, but you can almost smell the acrid fumes of his puri aloo bhajji breakfast.

Surely, you’ve got to be kidding if you don’t understand what I mean when I say that traffic in India is a whole world in itself. And you’re lucky if you can survive it with a few homicidal tendencies peppered with delusions of nuking the whole place. That’s just the normal mode here.


jerry said...

You know my father while driving sometimes points out: "You see that guy driving. See there's proof that God gives too much money to assholes."

xanjukta said...

Right said... i see you're in Clockwork orange these days!!!

jerry said...

:) I am.

Neepam Kakati said...

perseverance is a virtue on the roads, specially in jams.... hmm