Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Traffic Blues : Confessions of a driver

It took me almost 3 months to post this blog. But its because I have this Love-Hate relationship with the Internet. At times I fall deeply in love with it and never move away from the computer, and the next full month I would be just logging in to check the mails and nothing else. This has affected my communication in terms of chatting and the number of mails that I sent and receive. So if anyone can suggest a solution for this, Please Help!!!

Driving is one other thing that fall prey to my Love-Hate syndrome. At times its my passion and some other time its a boredom. Over the years I have driven through many palaces. Germany, Swiss, Austria, Belgium,.... Well, they are places where I would like to drive. The places where I drive around is the Incredible India's south.

The one area of oneness that I see in Indians, where all people share the same values and culture, apart from the political culture of looting people, is in driving. Well, the be precise, there are no values, no rules, no sympathy or emotions in driving as far as I have seen.

No, I am not talking about you. You are nice, caring and compassionate driver who is always concerned about the fellow drivers and passengers. I know that you also follow all the rules of driving, and never break a law. I am talking about those other rascals who just see vehicle and its purpose as their birth right.

A saying goes, "In Africa, a Lion wakes up to learn that it has to run faster than the slowest Zebra to be alive. And a Zebra wakes up to realize that it has to run faster than the fastest Lion in order to survive. So it doesn't matter what you are, you will have to keep running faster to be alive."

I was trying to draw a corollary between the above statement and driving in India. I have heard that the roads are worst in India and the traffic systems are poor when compared to international standards. I learned driving in the streets of Kochi, but then the traffic was too less. During those times, I used to leave hands while driving a bike to show all signals and not break the law. But here in B'lore I see many people doing the same thing (many times both hands) but hands are used to comb the hair or to pat the babes in the backseat. I was scared of driving in the 'crowded' cities of metros where the traffic rules were(supposed to be) very stringent. But over a period of time I also have become used to it, like many others.

Once I had a strange experience. I was traveling in B'lore with my friend, who was driving his friends bike. And the police was there to check and as usual asked a fine of Rs 1000. There were not even a single document for the bike and my friend began to cook up stories. I stood there, shivering, as he had come to receive me at the bus stand and it was my first trip in Bike in B'lore. He started saying to police that his Dad was in Army and his Uncle was in police and it went on. I stood there dumbstruck. I have never heard of any police uncle and his Dad known to me, was not in Army. Then guess what, the rates started coming down to 500, 300, 100 and you wont believe it, we gave Rs 10 to the police and left. This is the case in B'lore and I am not lying.

We cant just blame the law enforcing agencies. They are underpaid. And thanks to the media, they also hear about India's booming economy, that GDP is going to touch 8%, that 50% of India's population is under 30, and about the rising income levels and high percentage of disposable income of Indian youth. When MNC s of the world can en cash this rising and disposable income, why cant the responsible law-keepers do the same. We cant blame them. Today, people spend Rs.500 to see a single movie in PVR at Forum Mall in B'lore. Its not the millionaires who see them, its our own friends. so you can imagine the kind of 'disposable' income. (In Kerala, about 16 people can watch the same movie in a good theatre and 10 people in the best ones).

Newspapers write about "crumbling Infrastructure" in B'lore. The head honchos of IT firms complain about it. But the real pain of this 'crumbling' thing is not felt by the politicians or heads of companies. Its the common man, see the BMTC buses, the scooters, the mopeds. They pay the fine for that.

People are ignorant about good driving habits. They need education. Overtaking from left is a way of life here. Squeesing in through any narrow path, no matter if its footpath or someones plot, is a habit. And in a land where even the police say "Laws are made to break", who cares?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Morning Raagas

Click! And I shut-off the alarm, which was disturbing my sleep and curled up again, as usual. (It has sometimes occurred to me that we keep alarms just to test whether the Alarm function will work properly or not and not to get up when it rings.)

Then I remembered the new (year) resolution that my friend and I had taken last evening. To get up early and go for a morning walk to streamline our bodies. We decided not to take too many resolutions, (which obviously is one resolution by itself) and the second one was this.

After a lot of self-convincing, visualisng the leaner and meaner body shape that we would have, we were on the road in next ten minutes. Off we went, past the shut bakery, mobile shop to a wider road.

The road already had some regular walkies, from 10 year old to 80 year old. Other occupiers of the road were the milk vans, garbage collectors and early commuters for work.

There were grandpas and grannies wearing thick sweaters and caps, so thick that even a bullet cannot reach their body. We could hardly see their eyes, the face covered with woolen caps. They wore Adidas and Nike shoes and were walking slowly either with their partner or alone.

Some of them, who seemed to be little on the healthier and sporty side, were seen to carry a stick, not a walking stick, with them. I tried to understand, why? There are no stray dogs that you need arm yourself, and no, its not a walking stick since it is short, about 2 feet or so. Many grandpas seem to carry that, some of them were even thinner than the stick that they carry!

We walked on, and came across the new age health conscious and body conscious teen and youth. A typical one sports a Reebok T-shirt and cap, Nike shoes, Adidas tracks, an Apple iPod and they walk as if there is nobody else in an area of one square kilometer engrossed in their music. They walked fast; some overtook us who were devoid of the walking gears and accessories.

It was fun to watch some grannies and housewives walking with keys all around their bellies (who were wearing saris did that), and they also wearing Nike/Reebok sports shoes for walking. Some of the faces looked as if it was a mourning walk. Some groups were in their own world, while some other local groups were discussing the last night’s episode of that serial and the story of shopkeeper who tried to charge more for cabbage. Thus went their talks.

As we approached the park, it was business hour for some smart businessmen. There were people who sold fruit juices, of all possible juice variety that can reduce fat, increase digestion, blood circulation and memory. You could also get a brochure on health tips; mainly focusing on what juice should you take on which day for best results etc. It was indeed good businesses for them as people are turning health conscious day by day.

A loud set of voices made us turn their heads and look back. No, it was not an abuse like what we expected. It was a Veterans club having a hot discussion whether Siddaramiah should resign and Dharam Sing's stand on that issue. There are many such veteran clubs, a bunch of retired officers, who meet daily. They whisk away from home (mainly from wife) claiming to go for a walk, and end up discussing these 'hot' issues in park while relaxing after their walk from home to park. Then they go to the hotel nearby, have a coffee and break for the day. Some of them meet in the evening also for another session.

An interesting sight caught my attention. There was a person who was supposed to take a dog for a walk. The dog was so huge that it looked like a calf and it refused move. Its face said "No. Come what may, I am not coming. You do whatever you want." The person had to literally drag the dog, and he kept dragging it till I lost my sight. There were some others who had multiple dog chains with them, to me it looked like a chain on horses tied to a cart. (Like those chariots in Ramayana and Mahabharat).

It was time for us to return and on the way back we saw somewhat similar sights. People and venues had changed slightly. We saw bullet proofed grandparents, some with lathis, the modern day youth, dogs dragging people and people dragging dogs, distribution system of milk companies and fruit sellers, BPO/IT employees bound for Whitefield waiting for buses, etc.

In one way, a morning walk is healthy for body and mind too. Lots are there to observe in the small little world around us. So keep walking ! !