This is my first in a series of blogs on Mumbai. This blog is my take on driving and mobility in Mumbai.
The land of acceptance, a land of dreams, a place where anyone can make it big, the US counterpart of the ‘Land of milk & honey’ – all these sobriquets and many more are applicable to this ex-archipelago called Mumbai. We have been reading about the individual culture and collective culture in our Human resource subjects and Mumbai is a great place where you can see it in full play.
What struck me first was the pace of the city – remember the time lapse videos of traffic and people milling about? Mumbai is exactly that; a difference in that it’s not a video and that is the normal pace! Coming from a lot quieter south India and having spent considerable time outside India in even quieter and organised locations, the pace was a little unsettling at first.
The sheer temerity of the auto drivers as they weave in and out of highly congested streets throwing all notion of safe driving to the wind is admirable. The first time i sat in the front with the auto driver (that’s one extra seat = extra $$), i had to keep my eyes closed (a good driver makes a bad passenger!), and peek every now and then to enjoy the ride nonetheless! The auto driver had to be an expert seamstress in his past life to be able to weave his way through like that!
Dogs rudely awakened from their siestas, half naked children playing in the middle of the road, an overloaded bicycle and its trembling rider, an elderly person shuffling across the street – all are made to scamper for their lives by the autowallah. He rules the road, it doesn’t really matter who is at fault – he gets to spit quite a mouthful of curses at the other drivers and the by-standers for making his journey uncomfortable! A cuss-fest breaks all out at dense intersections, when a taxi driver, some private vehicles and autowallahs come together in a non-collaborative way. The choicest of expletives, invoking family members present and past and not sparing ancestors who were enjoying a state of respect (until now, that is!) , are exchanged in the melee. You would realise that it takes a special sense of ingenuity to come with swear words like that. Lexicons are challenged and multi- cultural, multi-language references used. The clash of the egos is usually broken by the arrival of a traffic policeman, who dishes out a few authority laden words from his extensive vocabulary, with the result that the mob is scattered without a trace.
Enough of spelling bees, I wish we could host a swearing bee contest – we will be the undisputed winners, every time.
As i believe, you don’t need brakes to survive here – you need a nice loud horn!