Parable of Traffic

September 5, 2006


There seems to be nothing that mimics life as much as driving in traffic in Bangalore. All the things that happen…for example, there you are, driving quietly along when a flashy, beautiful set of wheels blitzes past you, and leaves you with stars in your eyes and longing in your heart….oh, lucky ducks, you think, they have it all…why not me? Or you look on with unrequited desire and love… Then, the traffic light changes, and everyone charges forward, and lo and behold, the light changes just when you are at the crossing..and you think, why me? as you prepare to idle and watch the car in front receding in the distance while you are stuck. In the jostling laneless traffic, you are constantly trying to find the line that will take you ahead…and you find yourself behind that garbage cart  or pre-historic truck, while the line that you left  just now is zooming past…with all those undeserving drivers getting ahead of you.

The reverse sometimes happens too…though initially jammed, your line miraculously opens, and you gleefully speed past that Qualis or the IT-company taxi that overtook you so brazenly a while ago. You get hit, dented, and bruised…so unfairly; you wonder why you are wasting your time and effort in this rat-race.Then, making it all worthwhile, there’s the rare gesture of courtesy, of disinterested friendliness, as a car waves you on ahead, or a cheeky urchin smiles at you…

Sometimes the road is just great, but more often, it is an obstacle course that you have to traverse with difficulty and effort. You feel that for every law-abiding road user there are several rogues who make things much worse….

You also realize, that whether it’s a cart drawn by a spavined horse, a little Wagon R runabout, a snooty Honda Accord, a disdainful Merc, or a common-or-garden Maruti…all of them are heading down the same road, towards the same traffic light which doesn’t know any distinction between them…..but the cars themselves keep the caste system of  “rich” and “poor” and “status” and “my car is better and bigger than yours” rigidly alive.

The city which is supposed to represent the information superhighway certainly doesn’t have even one!