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The Great Indian Obstacle Course

 It was Ganesh Chaturthi when I began writing this and a Karnataka bandh by the time I finished. Believers everywhere pray for Lord Ganesha to remove all obstacles and then proceed to create their own obstacles with their traffic jam inducing processions. There are numerous things that defy logic in our country – godmen, reservations, godwomen, Rahul Gandhi, the Newshour, Sakshi Maharaj among trillion others to name a few. But the one thing that defies all logic, transcends boundaries and binds our nation together is our traffic and our collective traffic sense.

We share the roads with cows, dharnas, potholes and VIP cavalcades. With so many craters on the road, most days we think we are attempting a moon landing. When walking on a 10 feet wide foot path, we hear someone honking in our ear and cursing you for not giving them space. None of this will be possible if our roads aren’t dotted by colourful personalities. Though I am not given much to prayer, I wish for our roads to be devoid of numerous obstacles and obstacle courses. A small wish list of the obstacles that I wish we can experience less of:

1.      The speed warriors: Speed warriors missed qualifying for the Grand Prix in the 500cc category by 1/10th of a second and then decided to show off their prowess to us lesser mortals. They are of the conviction that women dig speed and when they see them on their 100cc monsters sans the silencers, they will drop everything and ride away with them into a smog filled sunset. Speed warriors don’t allow circumstances to mitigate their efforts. Never mind that the road is crowded, that there is bumper to bumper traffic, they still accelerate like they are seeing the lights change at the start of a Grand Prix. Hence, they go from 0 - 80 in 5 seconds, only to come to a screeching halt at the next signal approximately 5.5 seconds later. Speed warriors don’t think it out-of-place to attempt a wheelie in the middle of a busy road, jeopardizing the lives of others (not to mention theirs). Wherever they go, they leave behind a trail of exhaust and stupidity.
 A wish for them: May all speed warriors find middle-aged nurses to painstakingly wrap bandages on them when they end up strapped to a hospital bed. In the same vein, we don’t wish them a speedy recovery.

2.   The wanker honkers: Don’t be horny. That sounds like an oxymoronic message to give the second most populated country in the world. It was a campaign started by a radio station to get people to honk less and going by the last 20 minutes that I was in traffic, it has been met by numerous deaf ears. We are horny in more ways than one. While the censor board tries very hard to make people less horny, there is a species that cannot get a good night’s sleep if they don’t honk every two seconds. It is their second nature to honk even when the signal is red, even when the traffic isn’t moving an inch, even when there is no vehicle remotely in sight, even when they are parked, even when they’re behind an ambulance, even when the honk stops working. Not all horny people are satisfied with an orgasm.

 A wish for them: We wish the wanker honkers honk themselves into permanent deafness and find contentment with the voices and sounds in their head.

3.   DJs on wheels: Before the advent of micro-breweries and the smoking ban, pubs were filled with two things – cigarette smoke and music so loud that it made your ear drums go comatose. A few industrious souls then took it upon themselves to transport that atmosphere outside and subject citizens to the same torture. For some reason, you would think these people can afford to go to a disc and shell out hard cash to listen to blaring music that drowns out conversation and drink ethanol that drowns out sorrows. Alas, these folks presume that the rest of the world shares their fine taste, causing them to speed down roads in cars that vibrate like washing machines. Whether they are testing their ability to drive in extreme conditions or want to do their bit to increase the noise levels of the country remains a mystery.

A wish for them: Don’t worry champs, one day your talent will be spotted by DJ Silk/gold/poison ivy and you will hopefully get your chance to DJ in a crowded disc where no one cares what you’re playing.

4.   Cell gurus on the loose: Many of us have inadvertently fallen into this category at some point of time. This breed finds it normal to balance their phone on one side and ride, drive with one hand on the wheel and use the other hand to like a photo on facebook and shove the phone inside their helmets and talk while riding. They are presumably brokering world peace and just cannot hear the multitudes of wanker honkers behind them honking their arteries away. Cell gurus just cannot keep anyone waiting so they will stop abruptly to receive a call. They will be whatsapping even after the signal has turned green and cause wanker honker’s blood pressure to raise. They will miss a turn, forget to switch their indicator on, forget to move forward, but there is one thing that they will never miss – a call. For Cell gurus on the loose, you are always in the queue.

 A wish for them: May they incur a post-paid bill with so many riders that they stop in their tracks and make way for others to drive in peace.

5.   Rebels without a sense of direction: This breed is the sole cause for making us look both ways before crossing a one-way. They don’t think it out of place to go in the wrong direction on a one-way or deem it stupid to break a signal. It doesn’t end there. They express their displeasure when someone who is driving in the right direction comes in their way. They will speed on a one-way and curse people who are trying to cross the road. They will break a signal, block traffic and then curse the people for following the rules. Somewhere in the hollow crevices of their craniums, maybe they think they are ambulances.

 My wish for them: Let all their misadventures end with them being ferried in an ambulance to the nearest hospital. They can then legally go in the wrong direction and break all signals, all sirens blazing.

6.   Hybrid Breed: Autos don’t know what they qualify as. They will refuse customers by  charging flight rates for a ride and wonder why everyone is taking an Uber. Then they will strike because they aren’t getting enough business. They will speed and realise that they aren’t cars. They will think try to squeeze into small spaces and realise that they aren’t bikes. They will behave like kings until they see a cab and start crying like babies.

 A wish for them: We hope the metro and other cab services will cause the number of autos to reduce by one and a half. Or better, by double.

7. The walking motorist: Most people break rules and like they say, there is honour among thieves.  But they break rules while they’re on the road. Few have comprehension issues that aren’t easily solvable. If you show them a footpath and a road and ask them to spot the difference, chances are they’ll mix them up. They view footpaths as toll-free highways, not recognising that there aren’t any vehicles on them because footpaths aren’t meant for vehicles.

My wish for them: As they are speeding on a foot path, let their poor judgment be complemented by poor eyesight and may they fall headlong into a storm water drain. With their foot in their mouth.  

8. The lal batti brigade: When you see khadi clad men and women stationed every 5 feet, you know there is a problem. Somewhere in a galaxy far far away, a VIP and his henchmen have signaled their imminent arrival. So you race but to your bad luck get caught in the next signal. The ensuing sight is one of exasperation and humor. One by one, a slew of white cars race behind each other in a bid to get to some invisible race finish line. After the brigade passes, traffic gushes out from all sides like a full bladder. I’m not sure how getting traffic free roads help our babus as most of them end up delaying flights and arriving late for meetings and functions.

My wish for them:  May the VIPs car go into a pothole that they didn’t help repair and come to an abrupt halt. While waiting for help, they can watch the rest of the vehicles pass them by.

10. Love birds in the time of traffic jams: Some things are supposed to be private. But the memo seems to have missed these people. Some aren’t content with the attendance in their weddings and take to the streets to announce that they have entered marital bliss. Some others appease their gods by dancing drunk in front of them and holding up traffic.

My wish for them: May the newly wedded couple miss the flight to the exotic location they have booked for their honeymoon because they got stuck in a traffic jam caused by another marriage party.

On bandh day, every motorist’s wish was finally be fulfilled. The roads were empty and free. Their prayers were finally answered.

Pity no one could take their vehicles out and enjoy the obstacle free course on offer.


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