Bengaluru: Bread, butter and traffic jam

Bengaluru: Bread, butter and traffic jam

KAPPAN’SAUCER

First, let’s stomach this: Spurred by an ancient, survivalist instinct, we join a daily, ritualistic odyssey to our workplaces. But in that rush to earn our bread and butter, we often get stuck in jam!

Patient endurance then morphs into a pilgrim’s progress with an official stamp. The ordeal ends these days with a strange twist, a gift of honesty. For years, we have collectively carried this guilt of a false alibi for late arrival at office: stuck in traffic. Now, this comes with a clean conscience, straight from the heart.

Yes, every jam worth its salt offers an alternative. The seductive beckoning of the sidewalk for every motorcyclist. Not everyone falls for it, but many do. In one instant, the struggling walker is wiped out from visual range, and lo, you have a readymade bypass!

Our footpaths, so pedestrian! Now, that’s a trademark walker lament, certified by gaping holes, vendor benders and blind spots. But why bother, when those super wheels can race through them all in a jiffy. Stuck deep in the jam, as the car drivers stare with justified angst, jealousy earns a brownie point.

Back onto the road, every pothole offers a roundabout. That’s like a nostalgic tribute to our old-world junctions. So what if this ride is a bit more rickety, a bit less gentle. Sensitive to criticism, those civic agency guys hate to brand it a pothole. Come on, for these ‘path-breakers,’ ‘potholes’ are an infra dig.

Huffing and puffing, the eventual late office entry is a predictable breeze. The collective sigh of shared jam-struck brotherhood is an acknowledged official excuse. No questions asked.

But the question surfaces at the ‘fag’ end of your day, when you are just a puff away from stepping into that smoker’s corner. The boss queries about a pending project and wants you to stay back for a while. A while can get very elastic. Its dynamism is limitless.

Late after sunset, beyond the evening peak hour, the road wears a lazy look. Drained, body and mind not attuned for another early morning start, you mount that bike. At least, the ride back home would be a soothing breeze, you hope.

In our infinite wisdom, we often miscalculate. After dark, such mistakes could get too troubling for comfort. You turn a corner and there awaits the night police patrol. You are not a pub-hopper, you rile against drunk driving, and you are in campaign mode for safe driving. So, why worry?

But the man-in-khaki is no lackey. His antennas worked up by your weary look, he stops you in your track. Technology has long blessed humankind with breathalyzers and alcometers. You await the test with a rare, late-night confidence.

But bad days can stump you with endless twists. Bypassing the devices in short supply, the cop has an organic overdrive. His nose turns alcometer, as he orders you to say something, anything. The words don’t matter, the exhaust from your mouth does.

And then, you lose it. As the cop activates his nasal power and thrusts his nose, invading that private space between your mouth and the helmet visor, you completely, totally lose it. That dawn-to-dusk road battle comes out, tellingly, in this anguished cry of protest: Hey cop, you stop me every night. And take my breath away!