“Is the traffic light there just for your entertainment?” asked Oprah Winfrey,the American talk show host icon on her recent visit to India. Quite clearly she was aghast at our utter disregard for the traffic rules.
Traffic lights may not be for our entertainment but it is a fact that many of us care two hoots for the signal and would jump the lights when the traffic cop is not in sight. Our impatience at the traffic signal gives the impression that Indians are the busiest people in the world with no time to stand and wait. The lightening speed at which some people jump the lights, reminds me of a batsman who snatches a cheeky single on the cricket field. There are many who prefer to travel extra distance rather than wait at the lights. Never mind the risk of banging into others, they would go via the slip road, take U-turn from the divider (the short ones) and again take the route of the other slip road to go across. Imagine the risk and all this extra effort to save a few seconds !
Driving in many of the congested cities in the country, negotiating the chaotic traffic is a nightmare. Forget about following the rules, people, it appears, do not even know the traffic rules. The other day, my daughter-in-law who has recently shifted from Chandigarh to Noida was shocked, when the driver of the car behind her went on honking continuously as she waited at the traffic lights.
Even though traffic policing is quite strict in Chandigarh, there is no dearth of ‘dare devils’ on the roads. Rowdy youngsters, at times three on a bike pulling off stunts on the roads and of course, most of the times without helmets is a common sight. Then there are young boys who play loud blaring music while driving their cars at maddening speed. It is not unusual to be pestered by the speeding drivers who keep honking, trying to overtake from the left or the right, even though one is driving at the desirable speed in the right lane.
Not wearing helmets is a matter of pride for youngsters. I remember my brother-in -law , in his younger days, would keep the helmet between his feet on the scooter rather than wear it on his head. The moment he spotted a cop from a distance, like a juggler he would pick up the head gear with one hand and put it on his head. Boys are bound by the law to wear helmets but girls, who have no such binding, prefer to protect their skin rather than their skull. No wonder most of them are without helmets. On a hot summer day one can easily spot look alike of dacoits on the city roads, scores of girls speeding on their two-wheelers with their faces thoroughly covered.
Article for the MIDDLE published in The Tribune on 17 April 2012