I rant a bit about the traffic of a city which I love.
For those of you who stay in and around Mumbai and are familiar with the traffic in this maximum city, and travel by road everyday, I sympathise with you. And all those of you who aren’t familiar with the roads and road users of Mumbai, let me enlighten you.
Roads are in a complete mess because of the ongoing metro construction which is happening across the length and breadth of the city. Roads which I remember were wide and large once upon a time, now feel like cramped streets. But, that’s not an issue for me because the metro is being constructed for the greater good and to make our lives easier so let’s just deal with it.
My problem is with people who lack basic road discipline. Everyone is going in a straight line, you’re all happy and singing along whatever gibberish that the local FM station is playing and then suddenly, out of nowhere (okay, through a small corner in your ORVM) you see a mad rickshaw trying to overtake everyone in whatever limited space is available on the side of the road. The music stops playing, you transform from happy to mad, and there’s a crazy traffic snarl caused by the same rickshaw who has run out of space and is now trying to join the straight line which everyone has been following, much to the dismay of other drivers who in turn try their best to block him from entering their path.
What I spoke about above happens on city roads, let’s talk about the infamous Western Express Highway now, which doesn’t even remotely feel like a highway during peak hours. There are 4 lanes, all of them packed airtight. I see most people following lane discipline, because firstly there’s no space to keep cutting across lanes and secondly, well there’s just not enough space to keep cutting across lanes. Still, you do chance upon a few dimwits who switch lanes every few minutes whenever they find that tiny bit of space in the adjacent lane, only to realise that the lane they were earlier in was better and so they come back. These are the people who like playing Tetris on their phones so much that they think of giving it a shot in real life. Cutting across lanes doesn’t even make you reach your destination faster, in fact it delays the process which is already very delayed!
And, how can I even write this article without mentioning Mumbai’s infamous rash bikers, fondly known as Bantais or Chhapris. On weekend nights, you’ll see them racing on Bandra Reclamation with their riced out bikes or scooters, with cops trying to chase them or stop them. They launch their bikes, they cut across other cars (very dangerously at that!), they shout at the top of their voices and while they have a blast, other road users suffer.
On one such occasion, I had taken out my car for a late night drive. It was a Saturday, I was returning home through the sea-link and as soon as I reached Reclamation, I could see at least 30 bikes, with green LEDs, pink projectors and what not. Oh my my, total Fast & Furious feels, not! Anyway, I kept driving in my lane, some of the bikers whizzed past cars on the highway, annnndd there were some cops ahead. Expectedly, none of the bikers were wearing helmets and as they started scampering and escaping, one of them decided to use all his might on his bike’s brakes and take a sharp turn, heading straight into my car’s front fender leaving a gash.
As I lowered my window and gave him a stare, he turned around, gestured to me as if I was at fault (for driving sanely duh!) and asked me to carry on. Carry on I did, realising the fact that you just can’t do anything about these things here. I have accepted the fact that you can’t instil road sense into everyone. There are other gems too, like those who don’t like stopping before the white line on signals, those who start honking 3 seconds before the light turns green and a lot more.
But also a word of praise for people who do follow traffic rules. I’ve seen people forcing everyone in their car to fasten their seat belts, I’ve seen people wearing proper riding gear every time, irrespective of their trip being long or short and I’ve seen people not allowing their rickshaw or cab drivers to drive rashly. You guys are the real MVPs.
What about all the menace happening on our roads? Well it’s going to remain unchanged for a long time to come. I think I’m done with my rant, for now. I’ll see you guys soon with some more anecdotes and thoughts. Drive/ride safe!