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?