We were rather amazed when some visiting friends from Bangalore complimented our traffic regulations. I thought at first they were being sarcastic. “Your traffic at least moves, my dear,” was the observation. I guess we never know when we are better off. “Yes, the Metro Rail has thrown you off gear, but at least you get there”, remarked our friends.” Many a time we decide to turn tail and reach the comfort of our homes if the traffic permits!” If we grumble at our Chennai traffic, it would do each grumbler good to stay in Bangalore for a week and move around “at leisure”. With the city ripping its seams, and the growth uncontrolled it is a commuter’s nightmare. It puts you in a bind to confront flyovers galore in various stages of completion, and “one ways” reversed at whim.
We were staying at Millers Road, Bangalore, and had invited guests for dinner. We thought we would make a quick dash to a friend’s place in Trinity Gardens. Mercifully this took us about 20 minutes. We left her place at 6.15 pm hoping to reach home by 7 pm well in time to receive our guests. Our optimism was alas short lived as we drove into a traffic gridlock. The cars moved bumper to bumper and when we prudently maintained a safe distance, cars and autos would squeeze in, so that we were behind in the queue. Queue? Might was right and I was amazed at the dexterity of the Bangalore drivers as they expertly wove in and out of the lines, with screeching brakes and burning tyres making James Bond films pale by contrast. The motor cycle wallahs, two wheelers and autos were not to be outdone. They zigged and zagged in a game of musical chairs, and we felt totally incompetent at such awesome driving skills in this city.
The traffic inched forward, then came to a dead halt for what seemed eternity. The pattern continued till I lost all consciousness of time and place. The roads were horribly bumpy with potholes, and speed breakers.. I prayed that our vertebrae may not be displaced. It was well past Ulsoor that the traffic congestion cleared. It had taken us exactly two hours and twenty minutes to reach home. Ignoring the guests who were waiting in the lobby we rushed to the bathroom!!
When we murmured our apologies, sheepishly, they assured us that this was a common occurrence which they faced frequently! One had to know which areas to avoid at certain times and update ourselves on the routes and non entry points..And we were not to feel guilty, they should have issued warnings. It was a lesson well learnt.
I thought of a whole lot of compensatory measures for the poor Bangaloreans since most of the people I talked to were resigned to their fate. If you are a computer fiend, take your laptop and use a card to activate your internet, so you could save time answering your emails. The Kindle if you have downloaded some good books. Of course your cell phone is a must, to make those urgent phone calls. All the better if you have a Blackberry. The newspaper can be read from beginning to end, and with luck you can finish your suduko.. Take some DVDs with you so you can view them on the computer, and you could watch a full English movie comfortably. You have such a wide choice and it is a pity if you don’t use this opportunity. All this is possible only if you are privileged to have a driver. If you drive yourself, I would earnestly urge you to have your blood pressure checked regularly. I’m not sure whether you could consume water in plenty while you commute. You’ll have to choose between dehydration and a full bladder.
Car manufacturers could have a field day designing the interiors for emergencies and charge a well deserved premium. The back of the front seats could hold a small cloth holder for novels, magazines and newspapers, to house a mini library. The back seat should have a push up device to reveal a concealed chamber pot in times of emergencies for the ladies and children, the ones with built in chemicals which would just diffuse the contents and keep the pot hygienic. It wouldn’t do to have the contents splashing around while riding over speed breakers and potholes.
And what happens to someone having a heart attack or a stroke, or a pregnant woman who develops labour pains? The city planners thanks to their poor vision have to make one facility available. A helicopter service which can be summoned at will to the site of the emergency and the person concerned bailed out and taken to the nearest hospital.
We are fast reaching a stage when online shopping and door delivery for all commodities are the only way out, especially for senior citizens.. And we need not visit anyone. There is email and Skype where the webcam gives you pictures of your loved ones and we can continue to live in virtual reality.
Then we can dispense with cars. So the traffic will ease.. But what happens to the empty flyovers and the planning and vision which has eaten up several crores of rupees? Not to worry, the visionaries will take care of that.
One last fervent prayer I made was that Chennai would not take its cue from its sister city Bengaluru....or will it?