(PS: Alex selling Viagra and Candy selling yourself - you don't count. Sorry)
The Bangalore Corporation has faced severe disparagement in the last few months over the abysmal infrastructure and the lack of holistic planning. A myriad writers have sprayed their views on the number of potholes, narrow roads, road-works etc. on personal as well as public domains.
The one thing that is usually absent from this colourful graffiti is the role that the drivers and pedestrians, people like you and me play in making hell, hell.
With my limited driving experience in Indian and South-East Asian cities, I can safely say that Bangaloreans or Bengalurians have the least amount of common road sense – in the world.
Bangalore boasts of the highest dispensable consumer income per capita owing largely to the thriving IT and BPO sectors. This compounded with aggressive personal finance options has resulted in 800 new vehicles being registered each day in the city.
The following are some observations which clearly distinguish a Bangalorean from others. They can also be used as survival tips in case you are planning on commencing your driving odyssey:-
· Honking: If you don’t honk, you are not part of the cool-club. The moment the signal changes from red to green, it is mandatory to honk since the person in front of you might be colourblind and or mentally challenged. If the vehicle in front of you has broken down, honk continuously to show your disapproval. The generated noise might just spur the crippled machinery back into life.
· Shifting Lanes: Shifting lanes impulsively is perfectly acceptable and highly recommended to save precious time. Turning on the indicator is merely ceremonious since a large majority of vehicles don’t have working tail lights. If you are in a two-wheeler or an auto-rickshaw, stick out your paw at the absolute last second and make your turn in one swift, graceful maneuver.
· Road Rage: If someone has committed a traffic violation, it is mandatory to express your indignation. Stop your vehicle exactly where the violation has occurred, step out of your vehicle and approach the culpable party with clenched fists and red-eyes. (If possible, carry a bottle of glycerin at all times in your coat pocket – brings out the veins in your eyes beautifully). Once face to face with your adversary, do not give him a chance to confess or negotiate. Point your hand squarely at his nose, contort your face and hurl a barrage of profanities, preferably in Kannada (always the populist choice). After culminating the swearing match, spit groundwards as a symbol of sheer disgust and triumph. If the whole episode has to happen on the move, the raised hand and spitting maneuvers can be completed with some practice while one hand is on the wheel and the upper torso and other hand are inside the offender’s vehicle. Observing auto drivers is a good way of perfecting this graceful art.
· Traffic Signals: Most major junctions now have an LED display counting down to the green signal. Please take this as a challenge and not as a helpful indicator. When the countdown has reached 4, rev your engine, throw the vehicle into gear and speed off. It will be the intention of the traffic on the adjacent road to throw you off track but accelerate unfettered. The thrill factor is enough to pump much needed adrenalin back into the body after a long day’s work.
· Size does matter: The only traffic rule that one must remember is “survival”. Given the choice, buy a second hand vehicle, the largest vehicle and or a tank.
· Pedestrians and Cyclists: It is my honest opinion that all pedestrians and cyclists of Bangalore should be given awards for bravery. They just don’t seem to be afraid of anyone or anything. Pavements or footpaths are a rare luxury but they choose to use the middle of the road even where they exist. Swami Ramdevji seems to have inspired this new technique of walking with hands wildly flaying about as a life-saving exercise. Maybe he should recommend this strictly to be followed whilst at home or in parks else it might turn to be a life-threatening exercise.
· Side Mirrors: The mirrors on either side of the car are strictly for cosmetic design; hence keep them folded/closed at all points of time. If you don’t, there is a good chance that an overfriendly driver will venture close enough to extend congenialities taking with him your Rs. 6400 mirror. Since bumper to bumper parking literally means touching bumpers and changing lanes does not involve looking around, why use the mirrors for their intended purpose?
· One Ways: Don’t be fooled by semantics. A “one way” only means one thing – the way you want to go. This holds good especially after 10pm when all traffic rules cease to exist. So if you think you can safely test drive your spanking new Elantra on a deserted “one-way”, watch out for oncoming traffic – no two ways about it!
I have written this entire post whilst in a traffic jam on Hosur Road. Up ahead a vehicle had broken down, everyone is honking frantically, kannada profanity has drowned Dylan’s crooning from my stereo, the traffic cops have taken a timely coffee break…
You got a fast car
But is it fast enough so you can fly away
You gotta make a decision
You leave tonight or live and die this way
Current Location: 37,000 feet above sea level, somewhere over the Bay of Bengal in an Indian Airlines Airbus A320 en route to Singapore
This is my 18th flight to Singapore since June 1998; the 19th time that my folks dropped me to the airport (twice on one occasion thanks to a bird hit on a stationary, grounded aircraft); the 19th time that Ma wept. According to Yann Martel, humans can get used to anything. He should meet Ma.
I’ve hated flying for as long as I can remember. I hate taking off. I hate landing. I hate everything in between. I hate the meals. I hate the smells in the cabin. I hate aerosol. I hate the voice of the captain. I hate the fact that I have never had anyone remotely interesting or good-looking sitting next to me. I hate the fact that everytime I’ve asked to be seated next to someone interesting or good-looking, I’ve been promptly given the seat next to the lavatory. I hate the wailing of the less-than-attractive baby sitting behind me. I hate turbulence. I hate the changing drones of the engines. I hate “We are experiencing high tail wind” announcements. In a nutshell, I am a hateful person with airplanes, airports and everything related to them riding high on the loathe-list. Stewardesses are occasionally excused depending on age, airline and seam length.
Hate stems from a myriad different sources. The source of this particular abhorrence is simply, fear. The first air-pocket sows the seeds of doubt. By the time the aircraft reaches peak altitude my thoughts have raced from first memories of childhood, God, family, bright lights and ends of tunnels, relationships, wishes, disaster movies involving plane crashes, uninhabited islands, heroic fantasies with me as the protagonist saving damsels in distress, reincarnation, remorse….
I can’t remember the last time I hadn't made an attempt to approximate the total number of flights through the sands of history and the number of crashes to calculate the probability of this flight crashing. Thinking of what if it really did? How people – family, friends, acquaintances, strangers would react. It’s a perverse chain of thoughts, but one I find myself indulging in subconsciously. A call for pity? Deriving oodles of joy in their pathos, a sick, masochistic orgasm.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we have started our descent in preparation for landing, please make sure your seatbelts are fastened and tray tables are in their full upright position. Please turn off all electronic devices until the aircraft comes to a complete stop… “.
I hate her damn voice...