Not Rules, Just Guidelines!

There are many like me who get terribly upset at the increasing lack of traffic sense and the growing indiscipline. And while I have accepted that it is only going to get worse, when someone at 11.00 in the morning refuses to stop at a red signal, while I am waiting to cross the road, I still completely lose it. It’s good we are not allowed to carry guns!

A friend of mine who is equally aggressive, both at work and otherwise, came up to me a couple of days ago and shared the secret of how he has stopped getting stressed and angry when people break traffic rules!

It’s all about how you interpret rules. And it all starts making sense when you realize that traffic rules…

…are not rules. They are…

…just guidelines…

…and guidelines may or may not be followed.

And so, stopping when the signal turns red is really a choice. We all hope that you make the “right” choice, the “red” of the signal acting as a warning sign, telling you that perhaps it may not really be a bad idea if you stopped in the interest of all the concerned stakeholders including pedestrians. But in the end, it is your decision. And so, if it is 5.00 in the morning or 11.55 at night, if you are riding a two-wheeler at any time of the day, if the signal itself is really just at a pedestrian crossing and not at a major traffic cross-road, if there is no one in the way, if you are in a hurry to drop your kids to school, or if you just don’t feel like it today…there is no real compulsion to stop. It would be good for all of us if you did and we would be so thankful if you actually applied the brakes…but in the end, it is for you to decide.

That a good number actually stop when the signal turns red, especially between 9.00 and 9.00 seems to be that much more surprising if you see it from this perspective.

And so, when you hit a recreational cyclist early in the morning, who falls and fractures his jaw bone in three places and you are stopped by a two-wheeler passing by, it is your choice to back up, re-hit the person you’ve already knocked down and run away. It is not mandatory to stop and take the person to the hospital and say “sorry”!

I thought my friend was being ridiculous when he further extended the analogy, but I wonder. In most civil society, it is not acceptable to murder someone…and it is quite likely that you will go to jail for the rest of your life. But in our country I guess, “not killing” is really just a guideline. If you feel strongly that someone doesn’t deserve to live, you could actually just go ahead and kill that person…and in about 2-3 years you will be out of jail free because of lack of evidence or on some technical grounds. It is again surprising given this view that more people are still alive. Thank God for some small mercies!

The more we see a lack of deterrence, the more our rules become…mere guidelines. And this is when the serenity prayer comes handy. “Give me the serenity to accept the things I can’t change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”

PS: Thanks Samir D for sharing your “zen” point of view from the driver’s seat of a new C class.


  • Increasing road indiscipline is really getting onto my nerves. As far as I remember, Mumbai used to be so much more (if not completely) disciplined when it comes to road sense. I just hope that we live to see all this change! Love your articles Bhavin!:)

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Piran…thanks for the kind words. My blood just boils…

  • Dr Rahul Navalkar wrote:

    On a serious note, this attitude towards traffic rules and rules in general in Mumbai is really alarming. This stems from the fact that nothing is going to happen to you if you break rules…absolutely nothing.

    I went from Delhi to Nainital by road recently and realized that out of Delhi rules/common sense/logic/common decency don’t apply when it comes to traffic.

    This tendency is unfortunately extending to Mumbai as well. And no…it’s not due to excessive traffic or population. Bangkok has both but still has very decent traffic conditions. Because rules there are rules and not mere guidlines!

    P.S. Thanks Bhavin for hitting the nail on the head

  • My policy – Be the first at the red light. People behind you honk and want you to move and you keep cool. Blood of people behind you boils and you enjoy that their blood boils. 🙂

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    I do that at times.

  • Here’s the more relevant version of the Serenity Prayer.

    Lord give me the serenity to identify the right persons who stand in my way, the courage to shoot them and the wisdom to hide their bodies where no one can find them!


  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Wicked Zubin

  • Fully agree Bhavin… Even I am these days going through the same anger. Feel like taking a Shaktiman truck and flattening these jokers. Utter disregard for rules. My building gate is on a one way street but so many times I have seen people nonchalantly drive through whether day or night. Ditto at the office. And when I stop at a red light, people stare at me as if I have landed from Mars! Used to be proud of Mumbai’s disciplined driving but I guess we are going the Delhi way.

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    I still dream of running a bull-dozer on Mumbai streets Manish and flattening all errant vehicles.

  • Sometimes some very aggressive drivers decide to obey a signal and I used to wonder what made them do that – a cop who they can see a some distance away from the signal.If the cop is smart he hides behind a tree or a wall….

  • Pravin Kumar wrote:

    As a new biker on road a year back i remember being firm to follow the traffic rules to the T and after 6month it was an awakening for the Silly me to have as many scratches on my bike standing at red light or turning/moving at my green light. Last 6months have been Clean n Clear with no incidents, the change is now i follow the herd but that keeps me safe, me feels.
    Fear is the only thing that keeps us human disciplined or indisciplined, either the dear of our own life or the fear of law and we all are SCOOTING for our lives.

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Same with my car. When I finally decided I no longer care if it gets scratched or not, it never did and it’s doing just fine.

  • Matungawalla wrote:

    Make these people pay heavy fines like they do here in the USA. I got caught on RED light camera once and promptly got a notice in the mail for $75 fine. I paid the fine otherwise they would have thrown me in jail.

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    That is the issue. The deterrence should be significant. A fine of Rs 5000 will change a lot of things.

  • H.L. Chulani wrote:

    We have numerous rules to deter ‘crazy’ drivers but no one to enforce them! These very ‘crazy’ drivers drive sensibly when abroad. This shows an utter lack of respect for our rules- maybe a heavy fine or day behind bars may make these ‘crazies’ a bit sane! However, your friend is a philosopher- listen to him- no point in letting your blood boil!

  • George PV wrote:

    Concur without a doubt to what you have said.I do feel that if drivers were fined for even simple offences like being on the zebra at a signal( asuming they stop that is!), cutting lanes,excessive honking etc would also be a good deterrent.

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    And as Matungawallah has commented…”with huge fines”

  • ‘It’s good we are not allowed to carry guns!’

    I have said that many times myself

    I find it disconcerting that anyone who can spend Re. 500 can get a license to hurtle a one ton metal contraption down Indian ‘roads’

  • As an aside, can someone enlighten me on the purpose of the elevated stretch of road in the north bound direction after the Ruia signal in Matunga? Never could fathom the logic.

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    So just for the record…this is to protect a water pipe too near the surface.

  • Sunil Kamath wrote:

    In countries such as Thailand and Malaysia, the traffic situation is equally ‘Bad’..I was surprised NOT TO HEAR a single horn in-spite of the massive traffic Jams. The Traffic Police are hardly visible – yet people are disciplined to the extreme.

    Rules & Regulations are meant for the smooth functioning of society

    Unfortunately in our Country – it works out more for the Benefit of the personnel of the law enforcing agencies – be it the Police or the officials of The B.M.C, excise dept, sales tax or whatever

    ……for most of the Indians (Barring a few) who call themselves “Law abiding citizen”,is ever ready to ‘shell out’ cash expecting ‘small favors’ in return.


  • What bugs me most is when I stop at a signal and the person behind me keeps honking as if I am an idiot to stop when the light is red. Don’t follow the “guidelines” if you don’t want to — just let others follow them if they please.

    I must agree. We need to have a better traffic sense. How many times have we stopped at zebra crossings because someone wants to cross the road? I don’t, but that’s because I know that the person in the car behind me will probably beat me up if I do anything of that sort… 🙂

  • of late I have taken it upon myself to stop young bikers from Khalsa college on a no entry road They come charging on to the footpath to have a snack at the two shops there.
    I make them go back and come round. Most do it sheepishly. some ofcourse wait till my back is turned and continue. Even if I can wean a few from this habit, I am happy

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Luckily you have age on your side that allows you to get away with this. I still can’t seem to be able to stop them.

  • Sujata Morab wrote:

    Thnx for the article. Everything you said is true.
    I have not learnt any type driving because I don’t trust the lesson giver, the license giver, the other drivers or the pedestrians. I am the most edgy while being a passenger in a car or a pillion on a bike and also while walking on the road. For the fear that somebody will come from nowhere and hit me. Human life has not value here.

  • Brilliant! All the negative shades drawn in a very positive and lighter shade!

    I had shifted base to this city three years back and have come from a city which apart from all its good things is known for its people’s chaotic traffic sense and we kind of boast about it back there….. When I came to Mumbai above everything else I had presumed to witness a very good traffic sense in people here but it seemed to be the same here also, traffic rules followed only in main roads where the cops are on duty otherwise red or green the signals really don’t matter resulting into me witnessing several traffic jams at cross roads mostly when we are hurrying to office! I thought………Its the same everywhere..!

  • Bhavin Jankharia wrote:

    Prabha, it wasn’t like this up to 5-10 years ago. We actually used to be proud of the traffic sense in Mumbai. But in the recent past everything has changed.

  • Prem Mahtani wrote:

    Hi’ Bhavin,
    good topic enjoyed it like i do all your Articles .i stay near a reputed college,standing on the middle of the road are groups of students doing time pass and slowing traffic. if these are so called educated people then our future is bleak,i feel the govt should show documentaries on tv about driving and road sense,as we have none.

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