The other day I had to go to the bank by myself – I say by myself ‘coz I generally have my husband to drive me around (I’m not yet comfortable with our car and the Hyd traffic). The time couldn’t have been better – 7:30PM, that time of the day between evening and night when software engineers (God, I so hate that title!!) like me realize another day has just whizzed past and it’s time to go back to family. And sanity. Right, so I start at 7:30 and lucky for me, got an autorickshaw as soon as I walked out of my apartment.
For readers who haven’t been in/seen an auto (I doubt there would be any, but if you’re one of my ‘international’ readers (??!!), then this would interest you) – it is a 3-wheel contraption that makes more noise and smoke than a bunch of firecrackers but is still the preferred mode of commute in most Indian cities. The fare depends on the whims and fancies of the driver – so does the choice of road/pothole. An auto does not have to follow any traffic rules and it can fit in a gap where even a bicycle can only scrape through (reminds me of the Knight Bus from HP – hey, haven’t made references to HP in a long long time, so I have literally ‘earned’ this reference! Fair enough, right?).
So I took an auto till the bank which unfortunately is on the opposite side of the road from where the auto stopped (which was in front of a bus stop btw). This meant I had to cross the road to get to my destination. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Well, life is never so simple. If you have been in India, you should know this already – pedestrians are not a class of people. Unlike the US, if a bloke is trying to cross the road, as a person driving a vehicle, you are not obliged to stop and let him pass. You have every right to run over that poor thing or atleast scare him out of his wits so he doesn’t dare try that again.
So, this is how I was: 7:40PM (bank closes at 8 btw), out of the auto and at the bus stop, 7 autos in a line at the bus stop in various stages of motion, a road filled with vehicles all going at a min of 50kmph and beyond all this, my bank. Me, who hasn’t been on the road (leave alone crossing the road) in months! That is when I understood how a foreigner should feel if he/she comes to India. And I’m terribly sorry for them. Crossing a road here is as adventurous as white-water rafting, if not more dangerous. Coming back to my ordeal – every time I took a step forward to cross the road, the auto nearest to me would decide to move 1 ft forward and stop (that means the auto is looking for passengers!) and I would move back ‘coz the auto is moving forward! This happened so often that if someone just saw me, cutting out all the traffic ‘n stuff, it would look like I’m trying to tap dance. Sloppily at that.
That’s when the Gods thought of interfering – the traffic light near the bus stop went to Red – meaning no vehicles on the road I was trying to cross. Yippieee!! So I almost ran across the road (I learnt in my kindergarten to never run when crossing the road) and reached the divider. Unfortunately, the signals in India are so well coordinated that at any given point of time you cannot cross the entire road in one-go. You will have to wait at the divider (even if it doesn’t exist) and do a round of tap dance again. And so I did. This time is was more of step-aerobics ‘coz the divider was at a height from the road. Whatever!
The traffic light went red again – no movement of the vehicles on that bit of road that I’m yet to cross. Vehicles yes, movement, supposedly no. A tap dance later, I get across to find one last hurdle – no footpath. No walking space at all. Tap dance, step-aerobics and now, salsa.
Got to the bank, did my work and called up hubbie to pick me up. I don’t play road rash. I don’t do dancing either.