Being issued a driver’s licence, anywhere in the world, is symbolic of the expression ‘Freedom’. Therein begins the first foray into the murky depths of adulthood. It means loud music, the open road, the wind in your hair (an emblematic scene out of those trashy teenage flicks); road trips and all those other junky adventures people our age tend to desperately desire, minus the interference of more responsible adults such as parents.
Every college student dreams of that day when he or she can call a set of car keys their own (doesn’t matter if the car is a rusty bucket of bolts that would make a fine addition to any scrap yard) and do what any college student does best; run away. We (anyone who has crossed the ripe old age of 18), as a policy, tend to run away a lot. We run away from nagging parents, nagging boyfriends or girlfriends, nagging college professors, basically everything that destroys that sense of blissful tranquillity and starts with or is a synonym for the word nag (read sleep deprivation invoked grumpiness because the previous night was spent in the pursuit of everything that could have been done the day before).
In a fit of melodrama (and with the aid of a newly discovered word ‘emo’) I decided to ‘run away’. It was the usual story of a slight argument, and to cut the long story short peaks at a mud slinging fest (Me vs. Mother) that turned ugly. What was the cause of World War 3, you ask? I hate driving and this was the cause of my constant arguments with my mother. My mother was of the notion that since we do not live in the 18th century and horse-carriages went out fashion almost a hundred years ago, and therefore I need to learn how to drive because nobody was going to play chauffer for me anymore. My rebuttal included a nasal ‘but I don’t wannaaaaa’, showcasing another delightful moment of my incredibly mature behaviour.
I, in my self-depreciating chant of ‘Nobody likes me!’ (And a brilliant performance of squeeze-eye-till-tears-fall sniffles) exited the house in a huff, car keys in hand.
What a mistake that was.
Greek mythology begins with the tale of goddess Eurynome (goddess of all things) whose domain comprises of chaos. Chaos was an amorphous, gaping void encompassing the entire universe. In a bid to command the universe, the Goddess decided to make order out of chaos and in turn create planet Earth (Gaia) and subsequently, life.
If I was to reverse the whole make order out of chaos theory, we would arrive at the correct version of Delhi roads.
Delhi roads are the black hole (as I fondly call them!) of the road network of any country.
Our road system is so complicated that even the GPS navigating systems sometimes fails to point out the correct (and significantly shorter!) route to your desired destination. The approaching Commonwealth Games has only unleashed an army of Public Works Department workers, armed with shovels, who have not only accomplished in digging up every road possible, but have also occasionally presented themselves as road kill to on coming motorists.
The Delhi government, wanting to deprive the public of the pleasure of driving on wide roads, succeeded in reducing the lanes to two per side at most. If it isn’t the narrow roads and bottlenecks, choking the traffic, it’s the pot-holes that do their job the best. One season of rains, and behold! A surface so uneven that the experience of driving is comparable to sitting on a camel and making it run. The only souvenir you would ever take home from these journeys, is a backache so bad, that every slight movement would make you curl up into a ball and wish you were a person with more humbler needs, like a bullock cart, rather than that fancy car that is nursing wounds so bad that even a war battered vehicle looks better in front of it.
If it isn’t the state of the roads, it’s that of the government policy. Our city government added another feather in its cap by introducing a concept so evil that even Darth Vader looks like a harmless and pretty butterfly in front of it. I never knew the power of language till I saw that three letters combined could coin such a universally hated term that every man woman and child would unanimously curse their government elect.
Yes, I am talking about the BRT. Incredibly slow, it kills people, creates traffic jams, it has no set schedule, no way for pedestrians and to top it all, a bus stop in the middle of the road. Not the left or the right side but bang in the middle. What more could us civilians wish for?
The flyovers, though a boon, are eventually clogged during peak traffic hours because they cannot handle the sheer volume of traffic. The Gurgaon toll road is yet, another marvel. Fifteen minutes of the most luxurious open roads you’ll find in this city, but near the toll booths and voila; a jam comprising of at least 1000 cars. It’s truly the most awe-inspiring site. You can literally see the vein throbbing on each one of the car owners head.
The metro, even though fast and efficient, only suffers from one problem; the people who travel in it. They shove and push their way in and out of the train, not realising the next one is just maximum 3 minutes away.
The public transport system is riddled with problems such as smelly buses that are unsafe for women and auto-rickshaw’s that overcharge by at least thirty rupees. Even the cabs are notorious for being driven by murderers and rapists who entice you with low fares and then run off with your wallet, watch, phone and soul.
If it is not the system that is creating chaos, it is the people who are. Road rage and drunk driving are becoming so common that every day one reads such a report in the paper and it usually comprises of young adults like you and me. Irresponsible driving such as lane switching and skipping red lights is the icing to the cake.
The traffic cops, so easily bribed, usually wait around corners to pounce on their victim’s car to earn their daily income that is usually spent on a bottle of alcohol for the night.
Last but not the least, come our daily dose of street animals. Even an animal aficionado like me wants to murder the cow/dog that is happily sitting in the middle of the road and is deaf to the repeated honking and ensuing curses. They are such a unique sight that foreigners point, exclaim and take pictures every time they come across something like this. Personally, I believe, these animals like the attention, not unlike celebrities who claim to dislike the paparazzi but secretly scan the paper for articles and pictures about themselves.
As I leave my house (grudgingly) everyday to drive through these mad streets, I secretly hope and pray that I actually had the typical Hollywood movie road experience ahead of me and not a driver who is constantly honking and abusing me.
And one day, I also hope that better sense prevails and my mother for once lets me take the driver so that I can brave the big bad world of traffic on an even keel, armed with a man as maniacal as the system of driving in Delhi.
[Image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/vm2827/443485560/]