Living in an area along one of the main IT corridors of a developing city which is infamous for traffic congestion and gridlocks – the proposal of the suburban rail project for better connectivity was welcomed with aplomb as it is likely to decongest the city roads. But never did we, as residents of the suburban areas imagined the extent of traffic apocalypse we have to endure during the interim construction period.
Being stuck in the traffic is something I am used to, but not having parking space is a totally different ballgame. Last week, I reached my kid’s school after driving for one hour to cover a distance of 5 kms. Since there was no place to park / stop the vehicle due to the road expansion work, I was forced to take my child back home. In an another instance, I had taken my guests to our neighbourhood market where I asked them to alight the vehicle while I searched for a parking space. When I couldn’t find any, I had to return home and take a taxi to join my guests after a long wait.
Triggered by these experiences, I decided to consider public transportation for my commute when I am going alone. After all, thousands of people go by buses to their work, right?? With brimming energy, I started walking towards the bus stop which is probably a kilometre away from my residence. Broken footpath, open man holes, garbage piles, urine stench along the boundary walls – I braved them all. But the already narrow lanes were in a mess because of the previous night’s incessant rains which had left the roads with enormous slush and muddy puddles. “I can do it. I can do it.” – I repeated in my mind while I hopped, skipped and jumped across the puddles. Thanks to the Zumba class, I didn’t have any problem with the leaps.
I reached the bus stop and waited along with the numerous other office goers. As the air conditioned Volvo bus arrived, I found myself being pushed into the bus automatically by the crowd. Inside the bus, I mentioned my destination to the approaching conductor
and asked “How much?” with money in my extended hand. Without responding, he took the money and moved to the other side. When I asked for the ticket, he replied, “It’s ok madam. I know that you have paid.” Unbelievable.. He could sense that I am a novice bus commuter and pocketed that money for himself. I looked around to see what could have possibly made him guess that. Almost all of them were carrying backpacks and most importantly they were all wired and glued to their smartphones – completely oblivious of their surroundings – whereas I was trying to get a better grip by hanging on to the support bars and nervously checking out the bus stops through the window.
Just then, a seat was getting vacant. Before I could even react, a man from behind pushed me and took that place. So much for chivalry.. I convinced myself that maybe he had to go for a long distance. My destination arrived, but the bus didn’t stop. When I requested the driver to stop, he responded that the signal had become green and he would have missed the light if he had stopped. “Get down at the next stop Madam”, he said without an ounce of apology. I got down grudgingly from the bus minus all the initial enthusiasm as I had to walk for more than a kilometre again.
Depleted of all the energy, I started walking along the muddy, dug up road on a non existent footpath in the direction of the traffic – while trying not to get hit by any vehicles from behind. Also, I instinctively held my bag closer to my body as a shield, each time anyone passed by fearing their motives. When I reached my destination, I had a newfound respect for the people who commute by public transportation everyday.
Hope the day is not far away, when we overcome this temporary inconvenience. Our collective wish is that the road conditions would somehow improve drastically to reach world class standards with better infrastructure and lesser traffic chaos – where all the citizens follow the traffic rules to maintain the universal road discipline.
Till then, I Salute the undying spirits of the numerous brave-hearts who nonchalantly wade through the traffic, crowd and other extreme road conditions everyday.
May the Force be with you!!