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Chaos on Chennai roads

November 26, 2008

There are some things which need to be experienced to be believed. The morning hour rush in Chennai is one such. The roads in Chennai are very socialistic and hence everything from an unicycle to a F16 share space on what we call road and which on a good day, resembles the meteor hit moon surface. Good enough reason for me to believe that Indians will be best suited to adapt to moon conditions. This is why I endorse the Chandrayan, when a lot of people have been complaining about the money spent on this project, and who can be dismissed as people who lack foresight. Come to think of it, Indians can adapt to any place in our solar system due to the familiar conditions they offer. They can survive the extremes of temperatures of Mars, the sulphurous atmosphere of Venus, the waterless terrain of Mars, our love for the tubers especially potato will make us take to the ‘gas’ planets Jupiter, Saturn Neptune, Pluto, like fish to water; and for those of us who revel in the profanities like @ss#*!€$ Ur anus will do just fine.

I am digressing like the traffic during a political rally. Let me come straight to the point. Not an easy thing if you are traveling on Chennai roads. I commute to office,which is about 8Kms, on a 2 wheeler. On a typical day, my journey goes thus. I maneuver through an encroached area. The word encroachment usually brings to our mind pictures of hawkers spreading their wares on the pavement or of poor people putting up their housings in some vacant space, but this is a different kind of encroachment. Here the road is encroached by well to do people to park their cars, on both sides of the road, reducing the road width to just enough for a small car to pass. Next I enter a school zone which means I have to deal with Matador vans, school buses, auto rickshaws and all other kinds of vehicles parked haphazardly on the roads and of course, children coming in from all directions. I pass this successfully (doesn’t pass mean you are successful?) and approach an intersection where the traffic lights are just changing from green to amber. I slow down as a responsible law abiding citizen. I hear horns blaring from a car who wants to beat the lights. Unfortunately I have stopped and blocked his passage as well. I look through my rear view mirror at the man behind the wheel glaring at me for having wasted 3 minutes of his valuable time. Two and a half minute into the red light, he honks again, urging me to move forward. I hold my ground. As the lights turn green, the guy on a motor-cycle on my left puts on his right indicator and swerves right across me. I brake and am rewarded with a horn blast from behind by my ‘friend’ in the car. I inch across slowly as the road opposite is blocked by vehicles on the wrong side of the median, waiting for their signal to turn green. I only wish Indians are always as time conscious as they are at the traffic signals.

For the next few kilometers of my ride I climb up a hillock of sand and gravel made by a construction company who are using the road as their storage area; avoid hitting a car which doesn’t want to follow the lane discipline and cuts left to overtake on the wrong side; steer clear of a jay walker who darts across the road without looking left or right; drive helplessly behind a lorry whose exhaust fumes would put the corporation mosquito fogging machine to shame; brake suddenly behind an auto which had stopped in the middle of the road to pick up a passenger (the movement of the auto rickshaws resemble that of a cockroach which has been sprayed with a pesticide,very unpredictable); pass through trenches dug up by various government agencies such as Metro water, Electricity Board, BSNL, and the umpteen telecommunication companies. (These departments have the best intelligence network. Whenever a road is laid, these people land on the spot the following day and dig up the road, only to come back after a couple of years when it is re-laid. Either that or the contractors who take up road laying contracts are in collusion with these departments; so that the poor quality of roads they lay never surface). All this is on normal days. On special days like a monsoon/rainy days there are other things like knee deep water which will test your driving skills to the maximum, people driving their vehicle splashing water with no concern for other beings on the road, makeshift drainage dug by residents to drain water from their houses to the other side and vice versa .

Who said driving is stressful? I find it invigorating. It is like playing a video game. You will never know what will hit you or from where your next obstacle is coming from. It is mentally stimulating. It improves your reaction time. It throws a new challenge everyday. The rage built up can be channelised to constructive and productive activities at the office / work place. With so many things going for it ,how can anyone complain about it!!!

I read somewhere “East or west India is the best, but on the road Indians are the worst”.
When it comes to road culture, we can at best be classified as Neanderthals .


People have been talking about paperless office,people-less office,boss-less office; when are they going to think about office-less office, where you don’t have to go to work. Is it asking for too much?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. shail permalink
    November 30, 2008 12:25

    What a post!! I thoroughly enjoyed it. Everything so accurately described. Yeah, how do these departments find out just exactly when a new road has been laid?? Their priority, in fact their very aim seems to dig up the newly laid roads the very next day. Hilarious post. You had me laughing and thinking. Here in Trivandrum blocking the way for those who have right of way to the left (and the signal light says so) is so rampant. And when we blare horns and ask them to give way, they stare uncomprehendingly and act as if we are the mad men!! OMG Neanderthals just doesn’t describe it!!Yeah, how come we are so time conscious at traffic signals??!!! Lol. Loved your post for the narration and also its accuracy in describing our roads. Keep writing more!

  2. Snoopy permalink
    December 14, 2008 19:41

    India leads the world in the number of traffic accidents and deaths on the road. In 2007, there was an accident every minute and 290 deaths per day. The total number of deaths was more than 130,000 in 2007. Bad roads and bad maintenance of the vehicles are the main causes, in addition to rash and drunken driving.In U.S.A. around 40,000 deaths occur on the roads. But the number of vehicles in the U.S. is more than 100 times that in India. But due to strict law enforcement, fatal crashes declined by 1.7% from 2005 to 2006 in the U.S.and is declining further every year, whereas they are increasing in India by about 5% every year. There they are very strict about overspeeding and drunken driving. This is not so in India. The corrupt police do not play an active part in preventing these violations.The traffic authorities in the U.S. are traveller-friendly, unlike in India.My niece, Archana, was a Ph.D.student in the University of California,in 2002. One evening in the winter, while returning home, she was driving on a lonely road, when she had a flat. It was quite dark. She sat in her car and called 911, which is the standard procedure in such circumstances. In ten minutes, a Highway Patrol drove up. They checked her driving licence, helped her in changing the tyre and escorted her home about five miles away. Can such a thing happen in India?

  3. writerzblock permalink
    February 11, 2009 23:13

    That was Hilarious! Being a Chennaiite myself, I totally empathise with your invigourating exeperience on the road !! Will be back for more. And thanks, for your delightful words on my blog.Cheers..Pallavi

  4. PRG permalink
    February 12, 2009 19:53

    Thanks Pallavi for dropping by!

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