When I walked down the streets in Viña del Mar and later here, in this uncrowded city of Saint John, the best things were the absence of milling crowds, horrendous traffic, and the incessant honking of cars! Of course, the air was clean, there were sidewalks that were sidewalks and not garbage dumps or taken over by street hawkers.
Though the traffic is heavy and sometimes unruly in cities like Santiago or Toronto, it’s still a better scenario than the traffic in India! On my last visit to India, after years, I had forgotten how it was. I was clutching the seat, stifling expletives, and praying I reach my destination in one piece as we made our way through.
Earlier, when I was living there, I couldn’t ever take a walk along streets for fear of many things besides being hit or worse by a vehicle; two-wheeler, three-wheeler (cycle rickshaw) or four-wheeler. And if I ever even entertained the thought of going for a morning or evening walk (which I never did), I’d run the risk of motorbike-borne chain snatchers doing me some harm. Over the years away from there, I hoped things had changed only to be disappointed on my visit last year. The traffic had doubled, the population too, and about safety on walks; here’s what I heard from my niece who was a victim of chain snatchers.
She has a pet dog which she takes for a walk when she returns from work. One day, around eight o’ clock, she was out with the dog and two guys on a motorbike came alongside and gave a vicious kick to the dog which went flying some distance. Before my niece could react, she was hit so hard, she too landed on the ground some distance from where she had been. She was stunned and her dog lay immobile and quiet.
Through the haze, she heard a rough, threatening voice asking for her mobile phone, and whatever jewelry she had on. Long story short, she had no serious injury. She moaned the loss of her phone and jewelry. Her dog survived after undergoing some emergency treatment. But it was scary!
So you can imagine how much I appreciate what I found here. I need my walks… I have osteoarthritis among other things and walks are a must for me. #grateful
But since this topic was triggered by another post in my old journal, I am going to share something about one of my regular trips to work in India.
Suffer The Idiots
2011, the Ceat Tyre advertisement warning: “The streets are filled with idiots…” brought home the truth a couple of days back. I had a busy schedule with a new assignment keeping me on the edge. So, I wasn’t sitting so easy in the car as we drove out to work.
Barely fifty yards into the drive and the car screeched to a halt; my heart almost popped out of my mouth! We had barely missed a child of about 3 yrs. who had decided to cross the road on her own. Her parents, a young couple, stood by the road and called out to her but didn’t think it prudent to stop her physically. As if that wasn’t enough, they had a younger one, about a year and a half, running along ahead of them in the middle of the road! If like me, you’re thinking that both of them would have been shaken, you’re in for as big a surprise as I was. They just stood there, apparently unperturbed, and gave us the kind of dirty looks one could kill someone with.
The kind that said, “Don’t you know there are unattended kids on the road?”
“There are idiots on the road,” I muttered, “and they have to be out so early and in my way!”
When my heart made its way slowly, back to where it belonged, I settled in, praised the driver for his quick reflexes and cautioned him to keep alert.
Things went smoothly, we were on a stretch that does not have much traffic so early in the morning and I was thankful for that; it was premature. I lurched forward as the brakes hit the floorboard once again. Thankfully, I had on my back support and neck support.
Another “idiot” had conveniently stopped his car in the middle of a turn around a traffic island. He was talking on his mobile phone. He was so engrossed in his conversation that he remained blissfully unaware of his foolish action and its potentially disastrous consequences. He did not hear the screech of the brakes and neither did he notice the strike down dead looks we gave him as we drove off.
“Please God, no more,” I pleaded as my heart took its time settling into a more comfortable rhythm.
It shook me up nice and proper and I decided it would be better to close my eyes for a while and shut out the idiotic chaos. Before that, I gave the driver, who was new, directions about the route he would take to my workplace. We would be getting into the rush hour traffic and I had some time for a bit of shuteye.
It was taking too long to reach my destination. Was the congestion heavier or was there a traffic jam? I opened my eyes and looked out. There was no traffic jam; in fact, there was no familiar landmark either! Where were we? A wrong left turn and many other wrong right and left turns had brought us to unfamiliar territory. The driver sheepishly admitted we were lost and he had forgotten to get his mobile phone.
“As if the idiots on the roads were not enough. I had to get one in the car too!” I muttered.
“Kya baat hai ma’am?” he asked. (What is it ma’am or what’s the matter?)
“Kuch nahin,” was my deceptively sweet reply. (Nothing (at all))
As he asked passers-by, autorickshaw drivers, cycle-rickshaw drivers and whoever was kind enough to stop and give us directions (none of the few cars, that passed, stopped), I searched for my own phone in every pocket in my handbag. It wasn’t there.
Well, well, there was another idiot in the car who had forgotten to carry her phone!
Ah! Suffer the #idiots!