(Appeared today in the BANGALORE MIRROR)
We’re drowning in traffic, they tell us. Slowly choking to an agonising death on roads that are more pothole than road. And so, the End of the World – according to some, just a short 1095 days away – will be because we will all fall into a Giant-Pothole-in-the-Sky.
Naturally, with such doomsday prophecies in the air, I have become a keen observer of traffic. And have come to the conclusion that the problem is not only that there are too many vehicles and too few roads. (Forecasters predict that very soon, roads, along with the tiger and the fruit bat, will be extinct and future generations will gaze at pictures of them with the same wonderment as they do of dinosaurs and gasp, “Look, Ma! A road!”) The problem is also that traffic rules are outdated because we have forgotten to take into account a marvel of automotive engineering designed purely to facilitate safer driving.
I speak of course of the cell phone.
So, in order to set things right, I propose a rule that, in one fell swoop, will un-jam the jams(if the Oxford dictionary can have “unfriend” then why not “unjam”?), unsnarl the snarls and make traffic flow faster that a reality show contestant’s tears.
And the rule (heretofore known as The Rule) is this – Never-ever drive without making sure that you’re talking on your cell phone. It is a well-researched fact that talking incessantly on the cell phone improves the bowel movement, shrivels up hangnails and increases the population of fruit flies in Jalpaiguri. How exactly it helps to unjam those traffic jams and make our roads safer we don’t know as yet, but suffice to say that it does.
Now as you do this, you may notice (or not) that you’re hitting things with fairly regular frequency, many of them people. Or vehicles with people in them. Don’t let this bother you because most of the people you hit will also be talk-or-texting on their cell phones and chances are they won’t notice.
Of course, this rule applies to only learner drivers. Once the L-plate comes off, a sub-clause of The Rule immediately comes into force. Which makes it mandatory for you to not only talk on your cell phone while driving but to also read and send text messages, using at least two phones.
Now let me explain why this rule is so effective.
There are many things that have been put on the roads by evil minds to distract you while you are driving.
For example, you may have noticed (or not) strange, mysterious, multicoloured markings and signs that are all over the place. Lines, some dotted, others dashed; some straight, others squiggly. Arrows pointing this way and that; sometimes even squiggly arrows. Some of them are painted onto the road; others are on signboards. Now some poor fools amongst us think that these are traffic signs, meant to regulate traffic. (Whatever that means.) The truth is that nobody knows what they are or what they mean but experts are now of the opinion they could be coded messages left by an alien race of super cockroaches from a yet-to-be-discovered planet who plan to colonise Earth into a giant garbage-dump-cum-public-loo.
(Yup, somebody else beat us to the idea!)
Then there are all those dratted lights. Some are called traffic lights, but are actually leftover decorations from the last three BJP chintan-baitaks, obvious from the way they change colour every few minutes. Others are called indicators and you’ll spot them winking lasciviously at you from the sides and rear ends of vehicles. Nobody knows what they indicate, though it could be the timing and venue of the next Reddy-garus tantrum.
And finally, there are those men in funny uniforms standing inside even funnier kiosks plonked right in the middle of the road. (As if we don’t already have enough congestion problems.) They periodically make strange (though not obscene and thank God for that!) gestures with their hands. Again, the aforementioned poor fools think these chapss are traffic cops (whatever that is) but if you look at them closely, you’ll notice that all of them look vaguely familiar. That’s because they’re actually contestants from Bigg Boss out on their weekly task or politicians practising waving-to-the crowds in readiness for the next state elections. (Which I’m told may happen before we disappear down that Giant Pothole.)
Naturally, the only thing to do about all these pesky distractions is to ignore them completely, which you will automatically do if you follow The Rule because you won’t see any of them since you will be too busy talking-‘n-texting. And we will do our bit to help you by providing regular and lavish supplies of smog, exhaust fumes and other emissions to keep your eyes constantly watering and visibility only enough for you to be able read what’s on your zara-zara-touch-me-touch-me cell phone screen.
(I know, I know – the brilliance of The Rule is taking your breath away! It did mine too.)
I end with a related matter that needs urgent attention - parking space. (According to one estimate, before we disappear down that Giant Pothole, the planet will be one giant parking lot and we humans will be centipedes, slithering our way around billions of stationery vehicles, parked in the same spot for thousands of years ago. Only four roads will be left, all reserved for VIP traffic.) The inspiration for the solution comes from observing the er, nonchalance with which so many Indian men publicly relieve themselves anywhere and everywhere. So I’m thinking, if all the world’s an urinal (forgive me, Shakespeareji), why can’t it also be a parking lot?