Analysis and Insights
In case you are wondering, I did not ignore the blog for 2 months for no reason. I spent this time doing detailed analysis on mundane things in life. For instance, Traffic. When you spend as much time as I do, driving around in traffic, you know that this research is a fruit of painful laborious hours of intense thinking and introspection, most of which happened during traffic jams, while honking at someone and wondering in no less words, why, god, why.
And then the answer dawns. After 60 days of day in, day out jams, 130 hours spent waiting for the red to turn green, the answer dawns. It's all because of us. Only we are to blame for the jams. And hence, this research.
See, my logic is simple. Sure, our infrastructure sucks. Sure, the roads are bad. Sure, traffic police is incompetent. But are we sure, the entire problem is them? And not those 4 fingers pointing towards us?
Hence, I present to you 5 small things, which I believe, each of us should diligently follow, to bring down traffic chaos by 50%.
Rule No. 1: Discard the Class Monitor
When I was in Class 6, the biggest political scandal of our lives was the election of Class Monitor. After all, the Class Monitor could write down names of Bad Boys and Girls when the teacher stepped out momentarily. The one week of elections were full of allegations and blame-games.
Why did you vote for him, he broke my scale.
She told someone she has a boyfriend. Chiiiiiii. Don't vote for her.
And so on. But you know what shook us all? When the class teacher made this earth shattering announcement one day. She said, "I am stepping out. And I am not putting anyone in charge. Everyone is responsible for themselves. Why do you need a class monitor? Just mind yourself." With that, (and I am quite sure about this now, a little jig and a fist pump to herself for escaping the whole nuisance of elections), she walked out triumphantly.
We all sat stunned. Anyone who spoke up would be a fool for failing to mind himself. So for 15 minutes we sat in silence. When the teacher came back, she congratulated herself for her brilliant idea, and us for behaving ourselves.
It occurred to me a few days back that we are kids in Class 6 and Traffic Police are the class monitors. When we misbehave, we need the traffic police to come and write down our names as bad boys and girls and to pull us apart when we fight. But why do we misbehave? Just mind yourself na? Like a child pulled towards a mud pool, don't go running into a logjam area with vehicles in all directions stuck at the center, na? You will only add to the chaos. Be the self-monitored kid, who sits silently with his finger-on-lips, without being told to do that. Just wait for 5 minutes for things to clear out? Is it so hard? Just F**c*in mind yourself. That's all it takes.
Rule No. 2: O for Orange. Orange. Orange.
Red means Stop, Green means Go.
Orange means go, but very very slow.
This is what we learn when we are in Nursery. But when we grow up, we do this:
Red means squeeze through, run run run.
Green means breeze through, fun fun fun.
Orange means bhaago. Before red comes comes comes.
If you stop because the light just turned red, people start honking behind you. Like your whole understanding of the traffic signals is wrong. Stop doing that. Stop behaving like red is green and green is green and orange is also green. Nope. Everything is not green. If it was, you would gifting your lover leaves on Valentine's Day. Do you do that? No, right? Nope. Red is red. Orange is orange. Green is green. When the light is red or orange, respect it. Stop. Don't try to squeeze through and speed and run somehow. A wait of 100 seconds will not kill you.
If you really want to know why I am insisting on this, here's why.
When you try and squeeze through the reds and oranges, you get stuck in the middle of the nowhere. The next set for whom it is green now, cannot move, because your ass is sticking out on their path. So despite green, they cannot move. So when they get red, they want to somehow squeeze out too. So they eat into your green time. Its a vicious cycle.
Kisi bhi tarah iss light mein nikalne ke chakkar mein, you are spoiling the delicate balance of nature, dost. Just wait for green.
Rule No. 3: Leave your ego at home. Or even better, office.
I was once overtaking a water tanker, pregnant with so much water, it was overflowing at every speed-breaker. Everyone was overtaking him, because he was going at 10 kmph. So, I overtook him too. Next thing I know, from my rear view mirror, I saw some movement - that huge vehicle was hurtling towards me with water spewing in all directions. I thought he was in a hurry. But as soon as he overtook me, he slowed down to the painstakingly slow speed of 10 kmph. He had proven his point. He just spilled half the water he had to deliver somewhere. But that's ok. Because he taught a girl not to overtake him.
See, here's the thing. I never bring gender, etc. into anything. I think women are equal and can do everything and surprisingly, I think, many men are supportive of that. But, somehow I have realized, that's not so true on Indian roads. Some men hate it when a woman overtakes them. They cannot take it.
Maybe it is not a gender thing. I have seen men get enraged when someone honks at them or makes them do something they don't want to, on the road.
My point is simple: Dude, we are all stuck on the same freaking road, under the same freaking horrible conditions, breathing in the same freaking polluted air. Tum mere aage ho ya peeche ho, we are all losers for having created that traffic jam and for having been stuck in it. What are you trying to prove by going one car ahead? Nothing. Zilch.
May I recommend swallowing the ego and just hanging in there tight while we all make it through this little 200 second crisis? In the long, maybe very very long scheme of things, this little 20 sec maneuver you did to overtake someone, will not matter at all. Ego satisfy karne ke bohot mauke aur milenge. Don't waste it on the road, you will only make the jams worse.
Rule No. 4: Mute your horn.
Have you ever been at the beginning of the red light? When it turns green, what goes on in your head?
(a) Hmmmm. Where should my next vacation be? Italy? Corsica? What other exotic places came in movies lately?
(b) Sigh. Childhood days. Remember how I used to scare my sister by hiding behind doors. Huh. Sigh.
(c) Go go go go go go.
I am no expert, but my guess is (c) for most normal people. Assuming 99% of people driving on the roads are normal, most people are thinking about moving when the light turns green. So unless, there is a HUGE margin of error in this understanding, why would people start honking when the light turns green? It's like we give no benefit of doubt to the rest of the people around us. What did we think the guy in the front is doing? And how will honking help him speed up whatever he is doing?
Ok, let's for a second assume he is thinking about option (a). Which place to vacation next year. How is the honking helping?
Hmmm. Italy? Corsica.
Ok, done I am going to Corsica even if I have to sell my soul. Let's spit on this and close this deal here and now and start this vehicle.
Is that what we are expecting? I have thought about vacations during traffic lights and trust me, the honking does not help in conclusion. It only makes you wish for more time to think. Trust me.
Relax, I say. Don't add to the clutter and noise in our heads. So what if he took a few seconds? He is going to move eventually, right? He is not going to build a house right there, is he?
Just, let him be. And you also just be.
Rule No. 5: Follow the Rules
We blame everyone for traffic jams. We say things like, oh they follow lane discipline in the US. Who stopped us from doing that here? Does someone have to come and make a rule to tell you to stay in your own lane? It is ridiculous to assume that it is ok to go in the opposite direction when that road is empty. That's like saying, I am so hungry, I think I will swallow some food through the airpipe for now so that more food goes into the body. No. The airpipe should have only air. The opposite lane is for the opposite side traffic, it is not for you to zip through. And when you do that, you make the rest of us waiting diligently in the right side, look like idiots. And the worst part is, it is not because you are smart. It is just because you made a stupid assumption.
it is not rocket science. Do your bit. Follow the lanes. Don't go in opposite directions. Respect the traffic lights. Don't overtake unless necessary. Don't become a nuisance for others. Don't let others become a nuisance for you.
That's it. That's all that we need to do to not be stuck in traffic everyday. Can we do this? Or do we need Class Monitors?
This was cathartic. I feel nice after writing this post. Maybe it will do nothing to ease the jams, but atleast it makes me feel like the problem is not someone else, somewhere, but mostly, just us.