The Wrong Ways

I have just come back from a wonderful 3 days in Ahmedabad after attending a cousin’s wedding with my huge extended family from around the world…a typical big, reasonably fat Indian wedding with multiple sub-plots and threads. In the end though, such weddings are all about the ability to spend time with family without interruption…with those who live in the same city as us, but who we don’t have enough time for on a routine basis…and with those who have come from far away, who we otherwise don’t get an opportunity to meet.

I also had time to observe the city!

I went for a run from the Marriott on Satellite Road to Vastrapur Lake using the 132 Ring Road. I always run facing the traffic, to minimize any chance of an accident. It didn’t really matter. Every now and then, I would be suddenly surprised by a scooter or bike that would whiz past me…going the “wrong way”. This sometimes happens in the early hours even in Mumbai with newspaper and milk delivery boys, but not to the extent I saw happening in Ahmedabad.

Even cars did the same thing. It was extremely unnerving to be focused on the oncoming traffic and then to suddenly without warning have a car or SUV pass you by!

Each day I could see that instead of taking the long way or going around and taking a U-turn, people would just drive in a completely nonchalant and unapologetic manner on the “wrong side” of the road to get where they wanted to. The driver of my car was unfazed when he saw other cars coming from the opposite side (including outside the Marriott)…in fact the oncoming traffic would accommodate those driving the “wrong way”.

Not only that, once when I received directions from a relative regarding one of the venues, I was told that I would have to take a right turn by going along the “wrong way”. I told him that I was happy to take a “U-turn” and come back and he said that it was perfectly OK to just drive along the side of the “wrong way”.

The other thing we all landed up doing the “wrong way” was the drinking. Suddenly we had to hide and use subterfuge and paper bags and mineral water bottles…things we hadn’t done since college days. It was fun behaving like deprived teenagers, but you wonder why the state just doesn’t do away all this rubbish. Everyone knows where you can get the stuff, everyone who wants to, drinks anyway…so why not just bring it all out into the open?

None of this is an allegory for the state and its people. Just because a few things are done the “wrong way” does not mean that everything else is “wrong”.

Each time I visit Ahmedabad, I am pleasantly surprised. Whether it is the wide roads, the gleaming malls, the new airport, the recently started rapid transport bus system, or the ongoing riverfront work…it feels like a city on the move. The number of “party-plots” available for weddings and parties outnumbers similar open-air spaces in Mumbai by a factor of 40:1. And if we have our “ganpati” days, Ahmedabad has its “Makar Sankranti”.

What Ahmedabad still however lacks are good stand-alone, fine dining restaurants and really world-class hotels. And it really needs some less insurality and perhaps a bit more cosmopolitanism. And a little less Gujarati and a shade more English. And as with any other city in India, some more civic sense!

But the city rocks…the “wrong ways” not withstanding.

15 Comments

  • Even NaMo has failed in Wrong Way and Alcohol.

  • I am not surprised that you are cool with the uncivilized way of living. It’s people like you who have messed up this lovely country.
    In the late eighties on a flight from Bombay (then)to Baroda a client (a foreigner)and my baggage got misplaced. We were told to report this loss at the police station. When we reached the station, all the men in uniform, including the senior inspector were drunk. The senior could not stand.He asked me to write a report in Gujarati. I said I did not know G, but can write in Hindi. After taking my complaint he kept holding the page upside down. My client was amused. He was even aware that this was a dry area. He kept asking me how this could happen,that too with the cops. I was ashamed. The senior then tried to get some money out of us. He wobbled and came to our car and fell on the bonnet. We were saved the embarrassment when some good soul took him away.
    It was due to the goodwill of our hotel staff that our bags were located.
    Understand that prohibition should go in Gujarat, as it is just a farce, but you being happy about the uncivilized traffic sense…..??????/?

  • Couldnt agree more!!! The party plots- mumbai open spaces ratio was really surprising!!!

  • H.L. Chulani wrote:

    Hail progressive Gujarat!

  • Armaity Surendra Patel wrote:

    Hi Bhavin,
    You have written in a very sporting tone!
    I aalso agree with Mr.Norman that this hypocracy should vanish and no need to play Hide and Seek! (sick). This happens in other Coutries too where there is prohibition, yet we get the product of our choice!!! The idea of Prohibition was to enable people live a healthy and normal life! In Maharashtra it was implemented with the idea of protecting families from going bankrupt, from stopping men beating their wives and children, etc. But this failed miserably.
    People were making alcohol in the gutters and the cops used to come and collect the “Haptas”!! This scenerio used to take place in front of our eyes!
    This hypcracy continues wherever there is prohibition of any sorts. Even in the classroom or at home. If you are forbidden to do something, we will find ways to do it! Blame it on Human Nature?
    Bhavin, keep searching for new topics and give us chance to write our comments! Ha! Ha! Good Luck!

  • Since there is plenty of traffic between Mumbai and AHD, would it be correct to assume that the AHD method of careless driving is taking root in Mumbai too? Based on your experience, Bhavin, I am tempted to assume so. Ghatkopar is a good example of this phenomenon. Double and triple parking, giant SUVs blocking narrow streets, jumping red lights and driving up the wrong end of one-way streets is routine. These people feel they own the roads, especially with cops willing to look the other way.

  • V.Subramanian wrote:

    Bhavin, It is indeed shocking to learn from one of your readers that people like you are resposible for messing this lovely country.
    An isolated incident in eighties,has been quoted. Let everyone be reminded of the bone chilling incident of rape in a police station below the Marine drive flyover.Much like the maligned media,many Modi Baiters and Bashers,refuse to see the overwhelming positives.
    No one is ever happy with traffic violations,except the violators themselves. But how does one as an individual or even as a group tackle this menace.Several efforts have turned not only futile but also degenerated to altercations threatening the tranquility and posing hazards to health of the questioning individual.It is sensible to be cool about this.But one can continue to write about this menace in an attempt to continuously highlight the issue and hope the authorities do something about this.

  • Pushpendra Shah wrote:

    Bhavin – you have once again described the scene that could be in certain parts of Nairobi !

    In December 2012, I was in Amdavad for one night – and although I did not see much more than around the hotel we stayed in, I feel that Amdavad, and in the larger picture, India, has a fairly long way to go before it can be classified as clean – in every sense of the word.

    I took the Raj Dhani Express to Delhi, reaching there in the morning, and the tracks – for miles and miles – are lined with RUBBISH of all sorts… I donot think that this will ever be cleaned up…

    Visiting my relatives in Dadar –
    Saitan Chowki / Prabhadevi – the scene was exactly the same as I had left it 18 years ago.

    Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed my visit tremendously, as I always do, but my 14 year old son was not quite impressed with the overall lack of cleanliness. It was his first introduction to the land of his ancestors . . .

  • Bhavin, not surprised that you have some one to console you, stir you up, but bringing politics in this
    column is…………

    Have spoken as an Indian, not as a person from Maharashtra or any part of the Country.
    Besides I could write a book on the happenings, not just one episode. Like that famous saying “I was in Bagdad, while you were in Dad’s bag”. However, I am kept busy with my own business and unlike you, who make the time to write(yes, I would like to give the credit where it is due.) Yes you have the best opportunity to get to the readers every week. Have spelled this out once before. So you should, like in my business. We say check recheck and check again. You should do the same before posting.
    As far as politics
    Even so Modi was not even heard off in the eighties, so where is there any bashing of the kind.
    To tell the truth. Though being a true Congress bakht,have given up on them, as one can see the state we are in, forget corruption. If it were not for many other good souls here we would be on the brink….
    And on the other hand you will agree with me WHO ELSE????have we got any person of standing, CLASS.
    OK according to your friend and many others. Even I would like to give Modi a chance, if it is for the better. Yes I like all Citizens would like to see our future generation have a good life, quality of life, like in other first world Countries.
    Why can’t we be a first world?
    We have the funds (which at the moment are in the wrong pockets). Have traveled the world and see how people live, the surroundings etc. and would be so happy if we could have the same here in our lovely land. Surely many more would like this change.
    But will Modi be in a position to do all this? It is you and I, we all have to change, or Modi will have to be HITLER to get us to change.
    I remember you once wrote that
    you stopped a bike when he was riding through the red signal and….you know how it is. No one likes to be told (even requested)to do the right thing.
    As far as trying to get people to be civil,we begin with ourselves. There are many people who are doing their bit and if each one tried, we will see a change, not giving excuses of being told off, or afraid of being tackled, afraid of ones skin so to say.
    It is very easy to write, but come down from ones pedestal and bring in the change. So what if one gets a bad word or…

  • V.Subramanian wrote:

    One has long realised that “Discretion is the better part of Valour”.It is fool hardy to take law into one’s hands or try to assume a traffic cop’s role, more so at an advanced age.One goes about educating and coaxing the known youngsters against such wrong driving. Any specific,constructive and practical suggestions on tackling this problem is most welcome.Here also the change has to come from within.Anyone who realises this,will not loose his “COOL”.Accusing such people of being resposible for the mess especially on a shared platform cannot be counted as “CIVILITY” by any measure.We are all educated and civilised and trying to do our bit for the society in our own known ways and accepting somethings as faitaccompli need not be construed as a tacit encouragement and hence responsible for the malice.

  • Sujata Morab wrote:

    The saying that “When everybody is wrong, everybody is right” holds true in this case. I was in Surat last week and what i noticed was cleanliness, wide roads and absolutely no traffic rules. The lack of traffic discipline looks odd only to outsiders. For them it is normal and routine.

  • Except for the wrong driving habits and the availability of booze wherever we go( which is not a bad thing ), I think Gujarat, particularly Ahmedabad, is a fairly nice place to stay.
    Every place in India has its plus and minus points. To judge a big city, one has to use different para-meters. Is the city safe ? Does the Gov. machinery respond to complaints ? And how fast ? What is the state of its civic aminities?
    And most importantly, are the women safe to move about freely ?
    I think to most of my questions, the answer is “Yes” and I personally think that, even with some faults and short-comings, Gujarat is a nice place (particularly, Ahmedabad)) to stay. Similarly, “Amchi Mumbai” does not lag much behind !!

  • There you are you so called educated & civilized people of this Country, who have scant regards for the laws of the land, encouraging one another blowing ones own trumpet. Cannot distinguish between right and wrong, calling yourselves civil? No wonder the less educated behave in a similar fashion and what we have here is a….
    I rest my case case.

    PS If this was a personal blog. I would never comment. Since this article is published in MM. Guess have a right to do so. If Bhavin wants to strike me of his mailing list. He is free to do so. Then all we have is MUTUAL ADMIRATION CLUB.
    Now I find it is like wasting pearls….
    as your type of people are NEVER wrong and will never admit. Very good at creating trouble….

  • My Dear Bhavin
    My wife was in AMD for 4 years as GM NABARD. I could’t visit her even once with my D1+D2 appended to me as guardian. During this time i have rarely heard her saying cooking at home as there are as many restuarants giving good healthy cuisine I am reminded of it when i saw your blog. one strange thing she mentioned was ladies clad in sarees typical GUJJU style drive scooters with side cars too, But whey want to turn they lift their legs to show the direction, Wife had a harrowing time facing the criss cross driving of traffic experiencing some dents and scratches in her car for 4 years. Hale AMDAVADIS. Regards TNM

  • […] wrote an entire piece on this sub­ject ear­lier this year. Peo­ple drive along the oppo­site side of the road with­out any qualms all across Gujarat and […]

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