Since the days the metro work started in Sector 62, exiting from the sector to go to any part of the city is a humongous challenge, daily, especially during office hours. The hurdles start right outside the gate of our society. I take a daily decision which side I should steer my car as I cross my society gate. Right side or left side. It’s a service lane on either side. If I take right side, I would reach the traffic signal at Mamura chowk (more conventionally called ‘lal batti’), where I would need to break all the traffic rules to go to any of the four directions. If I take the left, I would have to circumnavigate the cluster of societies to get to the desired road.
The metro construction work changes the goal posts regularly. The central verge is occupied by the metro company to construct pillars and viaducts. The company occupies the verge by installing portable six feet high steel sheet boundaries on both the sides of the verge covering about 20 feet of space in width. Since there are offices/complexes/shops/residential buildings on both sides of the road, there are certain intersections/passages for smooth movement of both vehicular and pedestrian traffic. Due to metro work, these passages have been blocked, causing great traffic jams and inconvenience to all concerned. As and when the construction is completed at a certain stage, an opening is created by metro construction company to give passage. This facility is at their whims and fancies. So the jams are shifting continuously as the goal posts are being changed intermittently.
The mother of all jams is at the Mamura chowk. The crossing is unscientifically planned from the time it has come into existence. The road from the southern side (from Flex crossing) takes a straight line till the chowk. From here, it moves further in a 75% angle. Similar is the plan from the eastern side. The road in any direction from the chowk is not at 180 degrees. The western face of the road from the chowk is particularly narrow and most chaotic. At this part, the problem is aggravated by a lane joining it just at the chowk from the southern side, the wall of a factory, an opening (locally called ‘cut’) 15 meters from the ‘lal batti’ exactly opposite to a petrol station. This particular stretch of the chowk is chaotic any time during the day until late evening. During office hours there is a surge of pedestrians who are already late for their workplaces and just don’t care about traffic rules. Anyways, the vehicles, who are supposed to mind the signals, don’t care about the signals, what to talk about and expect from the pedestrians. These pedestrians block the roads on all four sides. They are constantly on the move, right middle of the road, on alleys between various assorted vehicles and at all possible places. The pedestrian simply raises his/her hand (right or left, whichever is free) showing his/her palm with raised fingers as if some magical force would apply the brakes of the moving vehicles. I always find they are least bothered about their own safety while crossing the road in that fashion. I am apprehensive of a situation when the driver doesn’t or couldn’t care about the raised hand and the sign to stop and hits the pedestrian. The way certain drivers persists ahead (particularly, the bus drivers, 3 wheeler drivers, auto rickshaw drivers and taxi drivers), the pedestrians are always at great risk of losing lives or gravely injured. But I see hardly any such caution by the pedestrians.
The most hapless lot at the chowk are 4 or 5 traffic controllers. A couple of them are actually traffic constables, rest are from home guards or from the private security agency arranged by the metro company. I admire them. Not because they manage the traffic movement efficiently. But because of their tenacity to stand for hours in varying weather (mostly difficult) managing wholesomely unruly stream of pedestrians and vehicles of all types. Their people management is like a parent who has to control a bunch of disorderly kids. Bikers are the most dangerous lot as they never give two hoots for any traffic rules. A typical biker does not ride through the chowk. He always attempts at sneaking in and sneaking out. No traffic rule is valid for them. However, the sight of the traffic controllers is important as it brings some semblance of fear of law among the people using the chowk. Otherwise, we find certain junctions are completely unmanageable where there is no traffic police,
Then comes some vehicles who consider it as a right to stop their vehicles right at the junction either to take in passengers or drop out passengers. They never bother that they are blocking traffic and the time is ticking away for the light to turn from green to red. Any decibel of the horn does not affect them and they don’t even look at the traffic behind. They are focussed on their business completely at that time. They don’t even care for the cane-wielding traffic constable. Such is their arrogance and indifference towards law and plight of others. Mostly autos and three-wheelers are the culprits sometimes joined by local private passenger buses.
The private passenger bus drivers have another annoying habit. They would continuously press the high decibel pressure horn while approaching the chowk, passing through the chowk and getting away from the chowk. I don’t understand the logic behind this. Perhaps this is a kind of signal to intending passengers who are scattered around the chowk (as there is no proper bus stand) and also to such passengers who are at a distance from the chowk and would come running to board the bus. Marketing technique at its best under the given circumstances!
All these were necessary to explain my daily struggle to exit Sector 62. I need to cover just about 2 km to get on the main road to my office which is 25 km from my home. The 2 km expedition takes from minimum 15 minutes to any amount of time. There are several ways to cover this distance. I have tried all. All of them takes the same time more or less. I take a little left from the service lane, get into the main road and then take a U-turn on the central verge opening created by metro company towards Mamura chowk. Here the wait for the ‘lal-batti’ to turn green is anywhere between 2 minutes to 10 minutes. I take right turn here towards that congested and chaotic western road flanked on all sides by standing, waiting, walking, moving, jostling, abusing, hurrying, jumping, running, talking, shouting, quarrelling, ear plugging, spitting, gutka chewing pedestrians. 15 meters further, I negotiate the car among all kinds of traffic peeping out from a ‘cut’ opposite to the petrol pump. 20 meters further, I need to take a left turn for which I have to be smarter than few more cars, buses, bikers, cyclists, and of course, pedestrians. I take the left turn and also the first sigh of relief. Negotiating this far has already taken more than 10 minutes on a normal day and I have travelled only 500 meters so far. This one is a straight road punctured with numerous sewer manholes, covers of some are protruding dangerously up to 4 inches from the road level and some are craters of 4 to 6 inches deep. The road is also punctured by a couple of lanes from where all kinds of traffic barge in without any announcement. I have to be very careful in negotiating the manholes, potholes, sneaking traffic from adjoining lanes and of course, the flowing traffic. After about 200 meters down the road, I need to pass through a crossing. No traffic lights, no traffic controller and dominant indiscipline from all whoever is approaching the crossing. The traffic takes a peculiar turn at this crossing. People move in all direction wherever an opening or a slot is noticed. If two or more detect the slot at the same time, there is a race. Bang! Inevitable! The larger the vehicle, greater is the risk for it as the public sympathy always on the weak or smaller one. Bicycle riders are a special lot. They would not alight come what may. They would march, perching on the rod between the seat and the handle, however precarious it may. One foot on the ground and another is on a pedal. To hell with honking traffic behind, the rider would give side only when he is able to pedal on both the levers sitting pretty at the seat.
This one is the last but one hurdle for me in my two km (seems unending) journey every morning. The last hurdle is in Flex crossing where an underpass is under construction. The road across is closed. It is also the starting point of the half-built flyover which I take. But before reaching the point, I have to negotiate a treacherous spot which is a T-point and due to a certain design fault in road laying, traffic from all the three direction converge here. So I have to be careful from the oncoming traffic which, seemingly moving straight, may take a sudden right turn and come face to face with me. There is a chance of another traffic which is coming from the right side of the T-point and you cannot guess which side it would go, straight or left as it would give an indication only when it is on the verge of the left turn realising it is late though. The bikers, as normal (sic.) to them, would come from left or right depending upon the 12 inches slot they have noticed from 10 meters away. I need to have at least 3 pairs of eyes to safely negotiate the stretch. Obviously, I don’t have 3 pairs of eyes. So I depend heavily on my luck and on the prudence of fellow drivers whichever vehicle they are driving.
Lastly near the T-point where I have to take a U-turn to get into the flyover, a major cacophony is a daily scene. People walk on wrong sides (there is no choice), cycles, bikes, cars, buses, trucks, tractors all jostle in every direction. So getting an opening near the start of the flyover is a tough task. Once I am successful, a great relief flows through my entire self. The car is also happy and shifts to top gear within seconds.
The best and most positive part of my daily struggle to exit from Sector 62 is that I have not seen any major accident in this 2 km. The reason is mainly due to the slowest movement by all kinds of vehicle and pedestrians however they may try to be fast. There is no road that is not taken, no space to move, no manoeuvrability possible and no option left. Everyone tries to outsmart others and in the process everyone simply glee. I have been trying to outsmart other drivers by taking the right lane sometimes, left lane sometimes, middle lane sometimes, following a bus whose sole goal is to outsmart every other person on the road, but all these attempts are futile as I have realised.
Since I am driving on this stretch for quite some time now (metro work started about a year back), I have developed a lot more patience. I switch off the car engine at least twice being aware that each wait is not less than 150 seconds. I don’t try to outsmart others as I have understood its futility. I don’t want to trouble my car by reckless manoeuvring. I am content waiting for my turn. I know that this 2 km is the only strenuous part of my 25 km ride. So why bother?