Traffic jams of another era

Traffic jams of another era

I may have to leave home at 7.30 am now to catch the van, and yet not be able to make it.

Recently, I read a report about how a traffic jam saved the lives of several prominent scientists a few years ago! The terrorists who intended to attack them at a seminar in IIM-Bangalore could not reach there on time because of a traffic jam.

This brought back many memories. Way back in the 1990s, I used to travel from my home in Yelahanka Satellite Town to MG Road for my work. I would catch a bus at 8.30 am and reach Palace Guttahalli around 9.10 am. From there, I would board a chartered van that a group of women working on MG Road had hired on a monthly basis. The van would arrive there at 9.30 am from Malleshwaram. Those 20 minutes were a  precious time to catch up on my reading which I would do sitting on a small stone, like a milestone, there.

In the eight years that I travelled by this route, I would have missed the van on very few occasions, when my bus from Yelahanka would get stuck in a jam and arrive there after 9.30 am! Today, however, if I had to do the same thing, I may have to leave my home at 7.30 am or 7.45 am to be sure to catch the van. And the van, too, may not be able to stick to its timings and drop me off at M G Road by 9.50 am like in the 90s.

In 1985-86, when I used to travel to Vijayapura, about 12–13 km off Devanahalli, the journey used to take a maximum of one hour from Mekhri Circle (without all the new flyovers, railway underbrid­ges etc), though we had to cross five level crossings, two or three of which would invariably be closed for crossing. I enjoyed this journey the most — though the vehicles that we travelled in were very uncomfortable — because of the good company of my colleagues and friends, the reading time that I got and, of course, all those interesting intellectual discussions that we would have. Can you even imagine such a journey today?

After 2000, things changed by leaps and bounds. It was may be in the year 2006. I was travelling with my husband to M S Ramaiah Hospital on the New BEL Road. We were just about a kilometre away from the hospital, after having already crossed two or three traffic jams, when we encountered another jam yet again, this time a horrible one. But, Nature does not wait for anyone and I got its call urgently. I could control no longer and I got off the car and started exploring for a public toilet. There was, unfortunately, none nearby.

Then, I saw an old man standing at the door of a house, watching the traffic lazily. I went to his compound and expres­sed my predicament. Without a second thought, he welcomed me and showed me the toilet. I ran inside and I heard a woman from the adjacent bathroom say, “Switch on the light and ask her to wait for a few seconds. I will be out and she can wash her feet. Let her not go away without receiving the thamboola.”

Yes. This is true. She came out, wrapping herself in a saree roughly, and offered me arisina-kumkuma and thamboola. This is a mere sample of Indian hospitality those days! Very few would dare take this risk of letting a total stranger inside the house, today! And believe it or not, after all this, when I came out of the house, my husband had moved just about a furlong away from that point! There are many more such memories of traffic jams. Maybe some other time!

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