Saturday, July 4, 2009

Gurgaon's traffic woes

We live in Gurgaon. The "Millenium" city of India. The "Singapore" of India. The "Mall" capital of India. Wow! Living in a city with such a colossal reputation should indeed give me an euphoric feeling, an "out of India, foreign country" kind of feeling. But I feel anything but that.

Whenever people get impressed with our address, I do not know how to react. Am I to feel proud and wax eloquent about the place or should I just get them acquainted with the woes at ground level. Because one thing is for sure, the comments about the city are all to do with it's tall glass and chrome buildings.The unseen reality on the ground is a different story all together.Gurgaon is as distant from Singapore as a yak is from the streets of Delhi.

The city has grown vertically at such a fast pace that the infrastructure has not been able to keep pace with it. HUDA has been firefighting a losing battle ever since they opened their city to private builders. With fancy apartments and world-class condominiums comes a population that has experienced the best the world has to offer and their expectations from the city match the height of the towers they reside in.They choose to live in India but pretend to be living in New York!

Gurgaon also has the reputation of being the IT hub of the north and the call-centre capital of India.Which means that the local junta is an educated lot. But the way they drive their "Civics and Corollas" belies that. They drive like they know not what the red light stands for! Seriously Gurgaon could easily be the "chaotic traffic" capital of the country. Each driver drives at his own whim and fancy; choosing to ignore the traffic lights, the fellow drivers, the scarcely present traffic cop, the existence of footpaths, road dividers or even pedestrians.
My immediate concern is the traffic light right outside the gate of my apartment block. The apartments are on the "mall mile" of the city and hence prone to traffic snarls. U-turns at the traffic crossing were blocked by the authorities for better flow of traffic. Drivers had to take a u-turn a little further ahead. But as each driver drives and turns at his convenience, a few rule-breakers/ path-formers chose to go over the kerb and form a turning of their own. They became the trend-setters and it became the norm to drive over the kerb. Over time the kerb ceased to exist and there was a huge pothole due to frequent mauling by SUVs. Every kind of vehicle passed through that haloed pathway even though it's rear wheels threatened to get stuck in the, now huge, pothole. When the authorities placed huge concrete blocks to block the, now common pathway, the irate drivers formed another turning a little short of the previous turn. The situation is still the same.
Being a law-abiding and rule-following citizen I find myself in the minority when I choose to take the turn at the designated spot. I feel like a righteous "goody-2-shoes" who will not do any wrong. Why does following rules/ doing exactly what I am expected to do, make me feel like a loser? I would like to do more about this situation than just write a post on it. Would a human chain at the spot help change the rule-breaking habits of the people? I would really like inputs to tackle this situation.
Do people even realise that by harming public property, in this case the kerb, they are actually paying for it through the heightened taxes imposed by the government. Finally the buck always stops at the tax payer, the aam aadmi. Our short-sightedness will eventually be our undoing in all things. "Living for today" is the modern man's mantra and all our problems can be traced back to this root cause. Just think about it.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Learnings from the "Painturewallah"

Sorry for being away for this long. In the 3 months that I have been away I have made a few self-discoveries. I have realised that working full-time is not my cup of tea. I enjoy the freedom of deciding every morning what I would like to do with the unfolding day. I detest the idea of "job commitments" taking away that decision from me. I am loathe to letting a job keep me away from all that I love doing, blogging included.

The other day I had a flat tyre and I took the car to a road-side "Painturewallah". It was extremely hot and I was not looking forward to the time I would have to spend in the heat while the car was being repaired. All of 5 minutes actually, 10 to the maximum. I looked at the young man working on my car. He seemed to be a teenager, probably my son's age. He was dressed in a tee-shirt and jeans which were completely black with grease. Obviously. I was being careful to not let any part of my clothing accidentally brush against him, lest it gets dirty.

And then the cruelty of my behaviour hit me. This guy was helping me do a job I was ill-equipped to handle myself. I had neither the strength nor the expertise to do the job I had entrusted him with. And yet I was looking at him disdainfully. Agreed his working conditions were pathetic and his overall appearance was filthy. But didn't the nature of his job require him to be that way. Why was I judging him by his appearance and not by his competence at his job?

We look down at people doing manual labour. They are the people consigned to the bottom of the heirarchy of workers. They are the ones with whom we haggle before paying them their due. We use phrases like,"Bhaiya, is kaam mein kya hai? Yeh toh koi bhi kar sakta hai"; "Itne se kaam ke itne paise?". It's like we are the experts at the job and not they.When you consider that these are also the people who are struggling to scrunge up one square meal a day,one really amazes at the strength they display in accomplishing their tasks which are physically demanding to say the least.
All of us living in our fancy homes and moving in our fancy vehicles cannot function for a day without the presence of these faceless people around us. And yet we do not value their work nor do we acknowledge the importance of their being. To us they are just the scum of the earth who are out to cheat and steal from us when our guards are down. To us they are the illegal encroachers of valuable urban space.To us they mean nothing as individuals.

Like the cart-horse Boxer in George Orwell's Animal Farm, these are the people who are happy doing their jobs, firm in their belief that one day their lot will improve. They are sure that all they need to do is work harder and harder for that to happen. And that's what they do.

Are we as convinced of our jobs as they are of theirs?