I drive a two-wheeler to work. I bought my bike in May. Everything was so smooth until last three days. Chennai was bored of being sunny and for a change she decided to pour her heart out. If you were in Chennai for even few days, you would have heard of Nelson Manikam Road. That is the road which connects Nungambakkam with Anna Nagar. Two posh areas full of cars and high end bikes. And when it rains, this road comes to a stand still.
If you are a two wheeler driver like me, then you would have a lot of time in your hand waiting for the traffic to move. Inch by Inch. You think about greater things. How you don’t even matter in bigger scheme of things and there is no reason to go on in this rat race called life. And then you will see a share auto move for a centimeter and without your knowledge you will be in race with four other two wheeler drivers and two cars to secure that one inch space.
As I said, you have abundant time in your hand to observe people and things who otherwise might not interest you at all. Here are few things which crossed my mind when I was struck in traffic for a good one hour to cross a 500 meter stretch.
Get your hands dirty:
No prizes for guessing how Chennai roads will be when it rains for five minutes. People who drive car as well as bike are reluctant to dip their vehicle in puddles. But if you have your destination and only your destination in your mind and don’t mind some dirt up your sleeve, you can roll up your sleeve (or trousers) and cross the puddles when others wait in the side without moving forward and not willing to get dirty. But sometimes it is the best way to move forward. If you have your destination in your mind and determined to achieve it as soon as you could, you got to roll up your sleeves or trousers and get some dirt on you. It is not only effective, but also so much fun.
Leader finds the way:
If you had to cross Loyola college by evening 6-8, you will know what I am talking about. There would be less than an inch gap between any two vehicles. It may be a KTM Duke, Discover, Activa, Share auto or city bus. You will have to move when they move and you will have to stop when they stop. And suddenly there would be some men, who cant wait. They will see the gaps, which you thought never existed. They will wade through it with such a skill and confidence that sometimes you wonder, whether they are inflatable toys rather than men with muscles and bones. The best thing is they will show the people that there is a way and you can always, always create your own trail than to wait and follow others.
Each man would be as desperate to get home like the next man standing in the traffic. Sometimes, when you see that there is a gap between a share auto and car and thinking of using that space, the share auto will move just an inch to make sure that you cannot get through. This will be more deliberate if you are a female driver. I saw a man zipping past a girl in activa who was stuck in same situation like I mentioned above. He signaled her to follow him, while he expertly zipped through the gaps, while not allowing the sadistic share auto guys are egoistic men drivers to harass that female till the next signal.
While stranded in the Subway, below the Nungambakkam Railway station, you will have hardly space to move. But the person in the 47 D bus, with the aim of Arjuna will spot that half centimeter space in front of you and will decide to use the space to fill with his spit. You cannot do anything as his aim is perfect other than swear him silently. You will be tired of all the honking and the reckless driving. You will be sure that the line behind you will be at least a mile long. Suddenly you will hear a sound of ambulance and you will see all the vehicles move to their left so as to give space to the ambulance. As in any metro we will have space to adjust even if you mean to use the footrest of the bike standing next to you, while he is balancing in the bumper of the car next to him. When an ambulance cross you steering clear of the traffic, all the motorists would have thought the same way for a moment to give way to the ambulance. Suddenly you will find your heart swell with happiness, not because it was Chennai people or not because of they finding space to give way to traffic. But because you are one of the collective consciousness, who wanted and gave way to the ambulance and the sense of satisfaction when we do some good thing with a crowd and when all the thoughts merge in a point. Truly exhilarating. Sometimes, I think it was the reason whey India won the world cup 2011. The moment when everyone sang Vande Mataram together in the stadium, it caught up with players and that collective consciousness is a strong force. When it used wrong, it killed a lot of people in Germany during WWII. When it is used right, it can work wonders. For a moment, I felt happy to be in a team which did a great job and the next moment, without even thinking we were all following the ambulance utilizing the clearance space.
A rainy Chennai evening can teach you a lot.