Greys and Greys

I started this piece as a tirade against two-wheeler riders who, over and above their flagrant disregard for all possible traffic rules, have started a new trend on divider-less roads, riding along the right side of their roads and cars, into the oncoming traffic, forcing these head-on vehicles to move further left – one day someone will not give way and…boom!

This angst was precipitated by my visits to South Africa last month and Kenya last week, both third world countries, where people follow traffic rules faithfully, despite all the issues they face. And in a place like Bali last year, our driver refused to reverse his car for a mere 20 metres, because it was against the rules. If people in these countries can follow the law, why can’t we?

One way of dealing with the indignation created by these analogies is to assume that all two-wheeler riders who flout rules are morally bankrupt and essentially criminals in waiting, who in the years to come, will be the ones filling our jails as murderers and thieves. But…

…this is not really true. Those who break traffic rules may not otherwise be dishonest and those who follow rules are not necessarily the most upright. For example, Mr. Rajat Gupta, who is otherwise revered as a philanthropist and someone who goes out of his way to help others was recently indicted for passing insider corporate information to his friends.

If the world were all black and white, those who lie to insurance companies during their Mediclaim applications and deny the presence of any past or present illnesses would be criminals. And yet, when you gently tell these same people they are committing fraud, most of them will look at you as if you are a complete idiot.  And these may not be the same ones who break traffic rules or commit corporate fraud while those who defraud other companies may actually tell the truth to the insurance company about a past illness.

I remember a recent incident. We were on the Expressway, in the Ghat section on our way to Pune. Suddenly we encountered a wall of vehicles in front of us and had to stop. The traffic was backed up and we had no clue what the reason was or how long it would take to clear. Ten minutes passed and soon many cars started driving on the opposite side of the Expressway along the shoulder. I decided to stay put, but after another ten minutes, I gave up and decided to follow the others. The fact that I didn’t eventually have to do so because the traffic in front cleared just then, doesn’t change the fact that I would have broken every possible rule at that point in time, just to get out of that traffic jam.

A black-and-white world really does not exist – it is the fear and extent of punishment that pushes us into the white from the grey – not necessarily our innate sense of what is correct or not. And sometimes, a herd mentality is tough to fight against!

The solution to regulate traffic though is very obvious…we need strict implementation of existing rules with stringent punishment and fines.

PS: I am touched by all the SMSes, emails, FB messages and blog comments expressing concern over last week’s incident. But really, there is no Mahavir bar (no not even for Jains) and Upper Parel does not exist (despite what some builders would like us believe) and the Nehru Home for Wayward Men is just a figment of my imagination. 

16 Comments

  • Pushpendra Shah wrote:

    Hmmm – A short stay here in Nairobi cannot give one a true picture of the goings-on, re the behaviour on the roads . . ! But, yes, I guess there is a semblance of order, because of the relatively smaller numbers of vehicles on the roads. Compared with Mumbai.
    The 2 wheelers – bicycles and motor bikes – made plentiful – thanks to the cheap Chinese versions now available are a total nuisance. The riders do not need a licence to drive these, there is no formal training in the usage of the roads – hence the delinquency. Wearing of helmets is recommended, but not yet made compulsory. I think the people in power are waiting for the numbers of injured to go up dramatically, before they will enact stricter laws. Weaving in and out of traffic, and overtaking from the left is “permitted” by even the policemen on duty. I guess you really need to drive here in Nairobi to get the REAL flavour of things… It was great to meet with you on your short visit here, Bhavin !

  • Armaity Surendra Patel wrote:

    You have hit upon the nail Bhavin! The nuisances of two wheelers are increasing to a detrimental extent. They not only drive against the traffic but on footpaths too!!
    They brush past the pedestrians and don’t care! And what about the 3 wheelers and 4 wheelers???? They are not above board!
    Nobody follows the traffic rules! There are no lines demarking the lanes ! So where there should be two lanes, you will see cars forming 4 lanes. Jumping the signals is child’s play! In Dubai if the trafic light is jumped they get jailed. Here, who cares! Because very very few are caught and those too who due to circumstances are caught by fluk.And then comes our traffic police whose palms if greesed you go scot free!!! What a vicious circle. Yes as Mr.Pushpendra Shah writes, we are waiting for some very dramatic thing to happen like major accidents, etc.
    Bhavin besides bring up these issues also do something to wake up the sleeping Mumbaikers!

  • H.L. Chulani wrote:

    There is a devil and god in each one of us- which dominates depends upon the circumstances and the possible retribution!

  • Your rants should be made required reading from grade 1 onwards :) That’s the only way to save Mumbai.

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Ha ha Sangeeta. Instead of Balbharti…Bhavinbhart

  • Jayesh Desai wrote:

    Anarchy thy name is India ! Heart yearn for order and peace but mind says don’t be stupid ! Remember Nasiruddin in “katha “? Left on bus stop trying to keep que on stop. In India we have one life and few bus so to hell with Que, just don’t miss the bus.

  • Janak Sheth wrote:

    In my first ever visit to Thailand this year I was really impressed by their civic sense, road civility and cleanliness.

    Add to that fantastic roads, 100% power, and free education till 12th standard – I returned thinking India is far backward then Thailand.

  • Bhavik wrote:

    Bikers…. Bikers ….. Bikers … What a nuisance on roads. As you rightly mentioned I have personally experienced them overtaking from right side of the vehicle and dashing into the old man waiting to cross the road. They not only put their own life at risk but others on the road as well. Also one thing I have noticed is that they honk unnecessarily creating a lot of noise pollution.
    Next time you can consider writing something on the driving habits of auto rickshaws drivers

  • Bhavik, so much has been said / written about people breaking all sorts of Rules. Unless the Traffic Dept. acts sternly with each and every law breaker, nothing will improve, let alone change for good. There is nothing to stop this Traffic Dept. from doing their duty diligently. But as the phrase goes – Where There Is A Will, There Is A Way, If There Is No Will, There Is No Way. Unfortunately, Majority Indians believe that under our Democratic system, we are free to do anything & every thing without permission from anyone. Remaining Indians follow Penguin Rule – while all the Penguins are standing & waiting on a seashore,but the moment one takes initiate to jump, all the rest will follow him in no time.

  • Surendra wrote:

    I myself own a two wheeler. I fully agree with what you say. In fact I stop such or others even those driving 4 wheelers against such driving. Under RTI I came to know that the road from Jain Temple to Gore Uddan Pool in Vile Parle East is NO PARKING ON BOTH SIDES. I took up the matter with local traffic police and after lot of follow up got NO PARKING boards displayed on this road. Since the department did not have budget to display permanent boards they displayed ‘stop gap’ boards on trees,wall etc.on this road and started toeing vehicles parked on this road including those in front of Jain Temple. But within 15 days interested [uninterested!] persons removed all of these boards. Mind you there is well known Parle Tilak Vidyalay in the vicinity which runs in 2 shifts and lot of children are inconvenienced due to this wrong parking. But who cares. Congrts for taking up this issue.

  • Surendra wrote:

    Another most dangerous driving is driving by children below 18 driving self starting two wheelers on the road and bye lanes in Vile Parle. Since it does not have gears and start instantly these children with/without the knowledge of their parents drive these two wheelers. Recently I handed over two such children to local police. I have been requesting police posted at crossing to stop such children but they refuse to do so.

  • dipali wrote:

    In my society,there are atleast 3 children aged 12-13 years who drive thier parents scooty and activa,within a radius of 4 kms.the parents are proud of them.in NEIGHBOURING SOCIETY FEW YEARS BACK,A father was teaching his son how to drive a santro.while taking reverse turn,the boy crushed a puppy sitting behind rear wheels.Is there any law to punish such parents?this menace of children driving is much more in Gujrat than Mumbai.

  • Prakash Nanavati wrote:

    We have to begin by educating RTO Inspectors who clear the driving test and issue driving licenses. They should be strict in the first place.

  • Abhilash wrote:

    Here I think only stick will rule. Bikers who flout these rules and most often normal people. Its the same with people who drive their cars on opposite side. Why people lose their sense of public decency? I think today all these things happen because either you are not caught and even if you are caught, you can easily bribe with a small amount. Traffic rules should be as very strict and fines as heavy as driving under influence of alcohol. When people are fined heavily or have to go to court and authorities don’t accept bribes, that’s when people will fear to flout. Individual arguments won’t work. Has corruption stopped after Anna Hazare movement? You need strong enforcement.

  • Pravin Kumar wrote:

    Human beings especially Indians are largely and most effectively motivated by fear. Sitting here at my shop at a traffic signal on S. V. Road and having seen different times. My observation is that the mere presence of traffic cops used to make ppl fall in line before but nowadays as less n less cops stand on traffic management duty and those who do have a different image, things are bound to go from bad to worse. The other day a biker not only jumped the signal but on being reprimanded by a traffic cop he pushed him aside and drove on. Thats the power of People’s Politics, am sure the biker derived his arrogance not from his righteousness but from being affiliated to a powerful politician who would get him out of a tight condition. To me all the problems boil down to politics, it seems Democracy is ruining India

  • Pradeep Bhatt wrote:

    Bhavinbhai, Right now I am in USA. I drive here and just undertook a road trip of 600 Miles and back. Driving is pleasure with good cars,Roads, Signs,Directions but most of all, EVERYONE follows rules. Even at 3 am, one has to stop at STOP sign-each car- even when there is no other car for Miles. people follow rules (there are Millions of cars here),because If you dont follow the Rules, you will end up in accident. At that speed, you will be lucky if you are not injured.I am always amazed at 4 way Junction without Signals but only with STOP sign,there is no Traffic jam-First to arrive at STOP sign goes first and everyone waits for their Turn !! How I wish this can happen in Mumbai where there is always Gridlock Traffic Jam. But then “We are like that Only”-Pradeep

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