As I commute to the college, my workplace, not more than two kilometers away from my home, I cross a traffic signal. The roads leading to this crossing have short dividers which are often used to skip the traffic lights. Never mind the risk of banging into the approaching traffic, there are many who come via the slip road, take a U-turn from the short divider and again take the route of the other slip road to cross over to the other side. Hence, while approaching the traffic lights I have to be constantly on guard, rather than focusing on the front I have to keep a vigil on the steady flow of cars, scooters and bikes trying to sneak from the right to go across. Imagine the risk and all this extra effort to save a few seconds! These are not just the youngsters who skirt the red light in this manner but young and old, men and even women can be found making this shortcut a thoroughfare. The other day, as I was heading towards the traffic lights, a cop in uniform appeared in front of my car from the slip road and disappeared from the other slip road. A shocking reflection of our national character, isn’t it?
We may be seldom in time but on the roads are in terrific hurry .This gets amply clear from our impatience at the traffic signal. The lightening speed at which some people jump the lights, reminds me of a batsman snatching a cheeky single in a 20-20 match. There is no time to stand and wait. Even before the lights turn green, the drivers from behind start honking mindlessly without having patience to wait for the vehicles in the front to move. For many, the best way to steer through an unruly maze of traffic is to keep blowing horn. Unlike the western world where honking is a taboo, here we are compulsive honkers, least concerned about noise pollution. We seem to be immune to high decibel noise.
Rules are blatantly flouted at the traffic lights. Utter disregard for rules, indiscipline at the traffic signal is a mirror image of our society, a manifestation of our national character. If the negative is reflected at the traffic signal, a positive change in Indian society in the form of emerging ‘women power’ can also be observed here. Scores of girls speeding confidently on their scooters is a common sight in urban India but the other day, I was witness to self-confidence of another level. While waiting at the signal, in bewilderment, I watched a young girl from behind make her way in the maze of stranded vehicles. Balancing the scooter on her two legs, she deftly maneuvered through the narrow gaps in between the vehicles. She made way for herself by slapping inward the side mirrors of the cars to her left and right. There she was on the front line ready to shoot off to the other side the moment the lights turned green. While I was struggling to get my car moving in the traffic, I saw her whiz across the road at a lightning speed. Jai Ho!
Published in Chandigarh Tribune on 16 Nov 2017