Once upon a time…
Go on read this fairy tale…
On Old Madras Road in Bangalore – now it is the new Chennai Road, there was factory called, in general parlance, the Jam Factory.
At that time Jam could only be found in the factory, not on the road to it; traffic was smooth as butter; there was no need for jam. Since the factory closed down however, the jam spilled out on to the roads; first in the capital and then onto the roads in the other cities in Karnataka that would like to make capital of their density of population – both men and vehicles! At the Silk Board Junction, also in Bengaluru, the traffic is like silk – it doesn’t melt away in the Bengaluru heat like Cadbury’s Silk but remains intricately woven like Mysuru Silk!
Jam Sandwiches are common on our roads, and we are grateful for them, for we can get hungry during the wait to move forward in life. But the wait teaches us many things – how to be patient, how to curse the system, without actively involving ourselves to make it better, curse other commuters and even rehearse our hidden vocabulary, something we don’t get a chance to do otherwise. I was referring to hidden system files!
But that apart if, we are travelling with friends, same sex, opposite sex, or alternate sex, we get a chance to discuss things threadbare – there’s so much time for a debate ala Arnab! And of course, if it’s just the two of you, husband and wife or the reverse – depends on who is driving who these days, there’s time to fight, to make up, or just ol’ make do as we normally do in India. There’s news that traffic jams are one of major causes of unhappiness and divorce in India. Either you are waiting for someone, or you are waiting with someone! Both are ill advised relationship boosters!
Unlike most prime-time debates, this is a discussion that must, to some extent, dwell on cause and effect, the rest is bakwas. Obviously, it’s not just the closure of the Jam Factory on an Old Madras Road, that is the prime cause. All of us know that India is largely an Agricultural Country that is agricultural in its approach to urbanization – It is not enough to plough the field and sow the seed, but you need to water it regularly for it grow and yield some benefit. So naturally you plow a field, build a road, and then you fill it with vehicles till it yields a bounty… of tax! It’s quite a simple philosophy and effective if the road keeps up with Times and the Republic!
Things were ok when you only paid an annual tax for the use of the road, that often is potholed and on which you are holed up most of the time due to the growing traffic. Human beings are aspirational! first a cycle, then who wants to do the hard work? a scooter, then who wants the dust and the heat? a small car, then who wants this cramped feeling with a growing family? So, a compact SUV, then who wants to look small in front of others, so, an MPV. That sounds like a blood test, but it is not, let me assure you. But you will need one shortly since you gave up the cycle. And now it’s all about the exploding EV – I’m talking about the numbers not the batteries mind you.
There is mystery here too. How do EV’s save the environment? Well, by claiming to do so. Plastics too do that, don’t you think? – they help you pack up your wet and dry waste separately after segregation! Electricity is fossil fuel converted to energy, right? Or is that a fossilised theory for fossils of the human race? But it’s something new, trendy and Green – just have a look at the colours of the registration plates! Green as a colour is now loved even by Saffron.
Speaking of Colour, in our cities, traffic is often regulated by Lights of Different colours – like different strokes for different folks – designed to brighten up our time on the Road. Red, Amber and Green! We love the green, don’t mind the amber but hate the reds. And so, mostly we find that in our cities, in response to public demand, traffic is regulated by a single colour – black – because while the poles stand tall, the signal is weak! But maybe it seems like that because most of the drivers are colour blind? But come on, they test that before issuing a driving licence, don’t they?
But back to the taxes. There is no Max for Tax. When the Annual Tax system failed to whet their appetite for money, there came an innovation – the lifetime tax. It may take you a lifetime to generate it, but for the government that built the road it was not enough pay back if people did not buy new vehicles by the dozen – it was you only die once kind of situation.
So, you are compelled to buy a new vehicle every 15 years, or less, because the emission standards are altered every alternate year (like the vaccine booster) while the manufacturers entice you to replace your last year’s model with a botoxed face lift! And more and more people are doing it! They love face lifts. Nobody, but nobody likes old, be it old people or old cars! Many households have two vehicles, and commercial vehicles are kings of the narrow road. Give way, or you will have way more to give.
But there is corollary to this “explosion” that can give you a coronary! Parking. Vehicles Vehicles, everywhere but not a place to park – not even at home! So, naturally, the road to hell is paved with vehicles! The curious part, is those in charge of enforcing no parking in no parking zones, are not in charge of Road Creation, Management and Taxation – that is a much higher calling. All they are in charge of is towing and fining without signing! So, the creator is different from Enforcer, and neither cares for the other or the Parker. The Parker is used to notices received signed with a Parker, nothing less!
The interesting thing about traffic flow in our cities is that it is not governed by rules of traffic but by the prices of fuel. Depending upon the price of fuel, one-way streets become two way and, in some cases, many ways, two wheelers become four wheelers and four wheelers, two; no U turn, means actually its exactly where you turn. Also, it ensures that you don’t wait for your turn. The principle is first come first Serve! Same as the rush for First Day First Show – Remember that show on MTV?
And then, in the breach, are the Traffic rules – You may follow them, but if another does not? Chaos, Anger, Grief. Take this headline in the ‘The Hindu’ on April 24, 2022. “Organs harvested from brain dead woman saves three lives”. The operative part of the story reads like this, “The liver and two kidneys of the 46-year-old bank employee, Preeti Nagaraj, was harvested after she was declared brain dead on Saturday. Liver has been sent for transplantation to the recipient in Bengaluru, while a kidney each has been sent for transplantation to patients each in Mangaluru and Manipal. Nagaraj was among the two persons injured after a car hit a median in Ballalbagh around noon on on April 9. The car crossed the median and hit head-on the vehicle of Ms. Nagaraj and three other vehicles, which was among the vehicles that had slowed down following traffic jam.”
So, there was a jam, in more ways than one. Jam is supposed to sweeten our lives, not kill it. But traffic has no rules if they are not followed. Get me? Are then Rules for fools? And will driverless cars follow the rules better? Or will AI help them break them better?
Well, ponder over that divider for a week, but don’t cross over! Just play the Honky Tonk Guitar and relax.
Read more columns by Brian here
This Article is written in the lighter vein. It hopes to bring a smile to your face, and you must not ascribe motives to its contents. There is no connection to events and characters in real life and if perchance you find a connect with any such real-life event or character, rest assured its purely coincidental.
Image by pixaoppa