Saturday, September 5, 2015

Being Human...

Rush hour traffic.

In Bangalore.

Yep. You get the picture, right?

Auto drivers with frayed tempers. You better not get in their way. Neither too close. One tiny invisible scratch and that will probably be your worst day ever!

Two-wheeler riders squeezing through, in between vehicles, trying to get ahead, so that when the signal changes from red to green, they can be the first to take off. Never mind that you still get to meet them again…at the next signal. Not that they can get very far! But the √©lan with which they manage to wedge in between vehicles can put even the humble H2O molecule to shame. Give them just the tiniest of space and you’ll see.

Car drivers changing lanes even before you can spell L-A-N-E. Formula 1 drivers- take note. You have competition!

No, I’m not even mentioning the buses, the tempos and pedestrians. Let’s not even go there!

Just waiting at the traffic signal for 120 seconds seems like the most frustrating wait ever.  You can read ‘hurry up’ written boldly on every single face. And god forbid, if your vehicle fails to start as the signal turns green, you will incur the abuses of every single vehicle standing behind you. Not to mention the incessant honking. It can drive you mad. Literally!

One such rush hour. One such signal. Hundreds of vehicles.

All eyes on the digital count-down board at the signal. 20….19…18…some two wheeler riders have started their squeeze through stunt. Some vehicles idylling, raising, idylling. Some, still waiting for the final countdown. 5…4…3… now, all vehicles are ready to take off. 2..1…No, there’s no vroom. The signal turning green does not mean you can start moving. It could take time, before your vehicle finally gets a chance to move. Ah, yes, the vehicle in front has started to budge. A white Maruti Omni. Just as vehicles behind it begin to inch, it comes to a screeching halt.

Perhaps, it failed to start. But the driver’s not trying to start it again. People behind him are getting impatient. There’s precisely 40 seconds…now 36…before the signal will turn red again. The mad honking has begun. Someone’s even tapping the rear windshield. No, he doesn’t move. There’s a little gap next to Omni, but there’s a huge crater on the road and no one wants to risk driving into it. And then, one brave heart does manage to drive his Yezdi through the patch. Some more brave hearts follow. But then the Yezdi stops too. Now the people behind are really mad. The honking decibel increases and words have turned to screams.

And while everyone still waits, there’s the final countdown to the red signal... 3…2…1…and red. The ignitions go off, honking ceases, and suddenly, strangers have become minute-long friends, cursing the driver of the Omni.

Then we spot her. A heavily pregnant lady, tears in her eyes, being helped into the van, by the driver of the Yezdi and another man, probably the driver of the Omni. A collective sigh, and more rounds of talks. Did the van hit her? Is she injured? Someone points out and then all eyes are on the road, watching the trail of trauma that she has left behind.

Apparently her water’s broken, and she in severe stress. A couple of more people get off their vehicles to help. She’s safely been helped to get inside now, but she’s still weeping and being consoled by a few women telling her everything will be okay. People are back to their own vehicles, it’s time to move on. 

Those who've seen it all, tell us the story. She had been trying to cross the road, when her water broke, and she just stood midway, shocked and not knowing what to do. The Omni could have hit her if he hadn’t applied the brakes. He’s also decided to take her to a nursing home. Now you can see shame on the faces that were cursing the driver only a few minutes ago. Some people doff their imaginary hats to him, while some mumble an inaudible sorry. Some pray that the lady and her unborn be fine, while some proclaim the driver an angel. The paradigm shift that has happened in 120 seconds is unbelievable.

As the signal turns to green once again, the extra 120 minutes doesn’t seem so wasted after all. An unborn child had managed to bring out the humane side of everyone.

If not for weeks, perhaps for a few days we will all be sanely human.

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