Traffic Woes (of Mumbai)

1.       Time = Distance x Potholes. No matter how fast you go, which short cut you take, and how much Power fuel you put in your car, you are always going to be stuck in a jam. It’s really not your fault. The 10,000 potholes on every road will make sure that you will take the same amount of time every day. Everyone in Mumbai has a game plan. They figure, if they leave at sharp 8, they will make it by sharp 9 to their destination. Or, if they beat the traffic by leaving from wherever they are at sharp 5, they will get home by sharp 6:15. It does not matter if it is AM or PM. And the best word they use is “max.” As in “Max, it will take an hour and a half.” Alternatively, “Max, I’ll be 15 minutes late.” However, be warned this is not the case. No matter what time you leave, no matter how much you pray, you will always take the same amount of time to reach from point A to point B as you did the day before, and you will tomorrow! You see that tempo to your right? It was there behind you two signals back.

2.       The Man With The Hand – No matter what speed you are going at, no matter if there is a signal or not, no matter if there are a million cars at different speeds on a highway, there will be a man who will cross the road right in front of you and show you “the hand”. Then several people will cross all together. As soon as you start moving, a few more random jaywalkers will cross the road all showing us the symbol for “Stop,” the hand. By the time, you reach home, you would have seen close to 4.6 million hands that day.

3.       Band Bajaa Protest – We all live in small houses but our hearts want to celebrate with many, many people of Mumbai. So the logical thing is to celebrate on the streets. From religious functions to weddings, Mumbaikars love to dance on the streets. So what if it causes a jam, how are they concerned if people are stuck in the car for 5 hours! Alternatively, if they are outraged and offended at something, they will again come on the road and stop traffic. It is the only way they can show their indignation. Traffic means the other person can feel for them as well. After all, the people in the car are not going anywhere anyway.

4.       Where Have You Reached – Only in Mumbai will you find people who will say “Not bad!” to someone reaching his destination in two hours. In fact, they’ll gloat about how “lucky” that man is to be actually reaching his destination at all! Mumbaikars have a completely different language when it comes to traffic that no other city does. When they are describing where they have reached they will probably say, “The KBC sign on the highway” and immediately the spouse back home will understand that it will take another 45 minutes before their entrance! Mumbaikars can also give directions in the same manner, “take a left at the red fruit wala, go straight till you hit KFC, then take another left, after 17 speed bumps, the house that is flooded on the left is mine.”

5.       Honking, Sulking, Steaming – It is a known fact that the urgency of a meeting or getting home is inversely proportional to the traffic. Still people will honk as if their life depended on it. It doesn’t make a difference. We all know that. It is only a way of showing aggression, frustration, and helplessness. When a person has completely given up hope, he will stop honking and sulk. Have you ever noticed the people’s faces in the jam next to you? I am sure these are the people who have taken the poll on the world’s happiest countries where India has emerged not so happy! When you’ve finally taken your mind off the road and reconciled to the fact that Final Destination wasn’t a movie but a reality, your bladder will want a leak. And right then the tempo, truck and donkey pulling the cart on a main road will break down right in front of you. Because it is such a natural thing that at peak hour, the slowest of all vehicles should be moving cross-country, right in front of you. It is known. It is given. This is Mumbai. We welcome all.


Dhruv said…
Nowhere have you mentioned bad policing and bad driving etiquettes. Which are the two main causes. UK has same roads, almost same quantum of traffic. Discipline makes all the difference.
Ashfaque Ismail said…
Despite the traffic congestions we lack etiquettes too. It is learned that people in other countries, mainly those having the tag of developed nation, hardly use their fingers to honk the horns. In mumbai and other cities in India while people know that the traffic jam will take time to decongest, they keep honking the horn...
A Kumar said…
Hopefully the Metro rail project once completed (in 10 years!!) will bring some relief. But by then, the population too would have increased 10 fold. In countries such as Singapore, the infrastructure such as roads, train stations are built first and then housing is developed around them. This also ensures that the govt / builders get good price for the houses and its a win-win situation for the buyer and seller.
Dhruv - Yes I agree. I could have had 5 more points to the traffic woes. Gosh, it seems all of us are very disgruntled with it and yet the govt seems to be doing nothing as usual.
A Kumar - Alas if we all had a little brains we would be far ahead of Singapore or Hong Kong.
Shubhankar Roy said…
This has nothing to do with your article on Traffic in Mumbai, but just found this section to write to you since I wanted to. Read your book, and felt good. Nicely written.. Congratulations on the book. I am yet another one of those millions who is an amateur writer, and making my way through to hopefully my first book in some time to come. Needed to read good stuff, and yours was good. Thanks for the enjoyment, and all the wishes for your upcoming books, which I know I'll read. Good day ahead, Shubhankar Roy (
syd said…
so? whats the point? tell me something i don't know!

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