While working in Mumbai I have used jam packed public transport, faced traffic snarls and escaped the monsoon deluge. I have also walked to office in knee deep water. I used to travel through Dharavi and smelt the stench and experienced the slowest moving traffic ever. People had right of way; traffic could wait even on a green light there. You had your eyes concentrating on people, one foot on the clutch, second on the brake, hand on the horn and an abuse on your lips. I have yet to see a foot over bridge or any effort of de-congest it.
People don’t want to move out from metros. Gurgaon is an example. You name a corporate it is there. The chain of malls I saw for the first time left me dumbfounded.
It reminded me of one our first ever visit to a mall in 2004. My wife, daughter and cousins decided to do our Christmas shopping. As we were done, I found a Barista counter near the main entrance. We sat down to have coffee. Suddenly there was commotion and people started to leave. I was observing this exodus sitting facing the entrance door.
I walked across to the gate to find the same thing happening on the opposite side malls too. Desperate honking and fanatic waving was going on. I asked the security what it is. He said there is a bomb scare in the mall opposite. I told myself don’t panic Noel and walked across to my gang sipping coffee. Kya Hua was the typical question and kuch nahi, relax was my typical answer.
I mentally started making escape routes as I had no idea of gurgaon. We had a few shopping bags and our new Christmas tree. Daughter was barely three. First thing I did was picked her up and made her sit on my shoulders so that my hands were free as I felt at home carrying a “pithoo”.
We had parked about a mile away in a private plot as their underground parking was full. Outside there was only chaos. Road was jammed because all husbands or drivers who had gone to fetch their vehicles were now waiting for their better halves. Some cars had brushed each other so that typical Ma-Behen was on between drivers. No one bothered that there are others who need to use this road. In fact it was an eerie kind of panic as no one knew what the situation was. Everyone just wanted to flee.
I heard that NSG had been called in so I understood matter is serious better evaporate before something blasts. We reached our parking lot. My cousin knew a route which was not blocked. By then it was shocking to see people had by now put their small kids on car roofs and handed them ice creams. I thought to myself, look at our mentality, people are now in time pass mode and have come to witness a “tamasha”.
Police was nowhere to be seen, red lights which were functional when we came were no more functional. Some people tried the smart act of taking U turns at the red light had added to the chaos blocking both sides. There was no method in this madness.
I told my cousin lets scoot before we are trapped. We reached the main highway zig-zagging & went up the flyover; one only saw headlights and bright red tail lights glowing for miles. We reached home and said a prayer and hoped there would be no blast of any kind.
The Bomb Disposal Squad with their sniffer dogs had to alight well short of IFFCO chowk due to the jam. They could carry only hand held equipment and by the time the dogs reached the mall they were tired and had to be rested before they could start their job. Mera Bharat Mahan!
People celebrated all night, Chana-Mungfali, Ice cream-Bhutta walas had a ball. Water was sold at price of petrol. Cars ran out of petrol as the jam could not be cleared till the wee hours of the morning adding to further chaos. No one left their cars or cleared the area either. It turned out to be a hoax call.
In our village here traffic gets jammed due to tourists. They break lanes, halt at will, without being sensitive to the limited road space. I prefer my scooter to go to market. It is easy to manoeuvre, easy to park and can wriggle trough any jam, besides carry our weekly shopping with ease. Thank God we are far from a metro. Will our basic Indian mentality ever change? I wonder!!!!!!!!
© Noel Ellis