Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Mumbai Road Rage

It took me close to two hours to drive the twelve odd kilometres from Chinchpokli to Bandra after work at Mumbai this evening. I took to the wheels of my new car for the first time after I returned from a weekend in KL and its regulated traffic and empty roads. I am without a driver again.

My spanking new expensive car with ergonomic seats and super suspension couldn't prevent my back from giving in today after the drive. I was so disoriented when I returned from my drive from hell that I almost put my socks in the garbage bin instead of in the laundry basket. So why am I writing instead of resting my back? I am writing because I am angry. Very angry. And the pain doesn't let me forget my anger.

Angry at the fact that I live in a city where I have to pay the highest road taxes, the highest for fuel, highest for rent and then have to go through this. Roads broken everywhere. Multiple constructions going on in every road of this cursed city. Metro, Monorail, flyovers, concreting, sky walks ... more projects at the same time than the number of women Tiger Woods had at one go. Some of them such as the walkways are a joke meant for construction guys and netas to beat the recession.

And then there are jaywalkers. That's the first thing which struck me after my weekend in KL. How pedestrians just take over the road and jauntily wave a finger at you asking you to stop. You spend huge sums of money to buy more bhp, cubic centimetres, more power, space and then move at the speed which would make a bullock cart driver seem like a F1 racer. And before you get all socialistic on me...there is enough space on our pavements. And traffic lights are there for a reason.

Then I came back, switched on the telly and what do I see? The principle opposition party taking on a film star who wants to hire Pakistanis for his cricket team. And the crown prince of the ruling party reminding all that commandos in 2611 had come from North India. I don't know what Major Unnikrishan's father would say about it. But the crown prince seemed to have forgotten that the commandos could have come earlier if his then Home Minister didn't want to hitch a ride on the flight for a photo op. And the 'Cousin'? I have it on good authority that there were both people who speak the local language and those who don't who were stuck in this evening's traffic. And then there was the gem that the police at Pune are going to come down on PDA during V Day. Splendid. Now all we need to hope is that Kasab's classmates come in holding hands. We will be safe then.

And don't give me the argument that the middle class doesn't vote and don't deserve to complain. I voted for the last two elections once I got my name on the lists here.

Don't give the argument, "shut up or ship out you outsider". I have lived in this city for ten years. Folks need to understand that every global city grows because of their mix of native talent AND immigrant talent. Often from across borders. Would Mumbai be as big in the corporate world, films, advertising, fashion, electronic media, if it wasn't for people who had come from outside and made it its home? Neither is exclusive. The locals build the base. And fresh blood helps the city grow. We can accept this fact of life. Or we can be like the cities across India which everyone pooh poohs.

From traffic to the outsider issue.... I know that it's a hyper leap but the point I am trying to make is that there are enough real issues here - traffic, water, pollution, housing, drunken driving, rats, terrorism. It's surprising that our polity have the time to dream up the sort of ridiculous issues which they live by. But I guess that is our lot. They will fiddle. And we will burn..

Drunken driving? It's driving here which will lead you to drink


Scarlett said...

I totally agree with you - on both issues. Our roads are a nightmare when they should be a basic facility that the government offers the citizens of the country it governs. And pedestrians are the biggest menace on the roads - they think it's their birthright to cross the road when the light is green & God forbid if they get hurt by a vehicle - even if it barely touches them - the driver has had it. Sometimes I just feel like running over some errant pedestrians to teach them a lesson! And I'm not apologetic about feeling that way or admitting it.

And it's a shame that politicians spend their entire time & energy fighting over inane issues when there are so many real issues to work on. And you know what...for this very reason India will NEVER become a superpower even in a 100 years. Nor will we be as developed as Europe or America. We might be bookish intelligent but we aren't smart. We are essentially a nation of stupid people who waste their time on stupid issues & who get manipulated by a handful of corrupt politicians.

The knife said...

In fact I had to stay home Scarlett because of my back. Just went for a morning meeting at Juhu.

This is what the infrastructure does to the citizens of the corporate capital of India

I am afraid I share your cynicism and despair. Those who talk of India as a super power should go to other world cities and do more than just shop