Walking in my Bengalooru!

This is the third of my walking trilogy. It was written around the same time as the other two, as I travelled from US to Bangkok to Bangalore.

Actually, I have wonderful memories of walks while growing up in Bangalore. Walks with my father accompanied by our dogs as a kid and with friend Mouli or Cousin Rangaraj(Dr) in my younger days . But the walk I experienced as a retiree was different. While walking within Lalbaugh was great, getting into it was a challenge and walking anywhere once the traffic built up was a nightmare!

'Walking in Bangalore from Latha’s apartment to Lalbaugh is pleasant, as it is cooler after a couple of April showers. The dust has settled and it is green again on the main roads that are lined with trees. As you step out of the apartment to a quiet road early in the morning, you choose to walk in the middle of the street as there is no traffic at that time. The lack of traffic in not the only reason you walk in the middle. There are no pavements on some streets and even if there is a pavement they are invariably full of things which are in the process of being removed. The construction material either waiting to be used or cleared, the garbage, parked cars, scooters, cows being milked, cow dung, various types of droppings and the wet lines which start from the compound walls
in a narrow stream and culminate prominently on the brown unpaved footpath.

You are reasonably safe walking the middle in the smaller streets as you seem to have equal rights with cars and other wheeled vehicles except possibly the buses! In case you are lost in thought, you get wake up calls as the drivers sound horn with abandon. You can soon learn to distinguish between a friendly warning and a threat.

The story is different on the main roads! I recall the risk I once took at a crossing, I waited patiently for the police who was there near the crossing to stop the flow of traffic to assist me, a pedestrian to cross! I have noticed that the police rarely if ever regulate traffic! They view the whole situation according to their inner nature! The present one was just contemplating the flow very philosophically and let it go unimpeded! Finally getting impatient I took law to my own hands and crossed with impunity by raising my hands! I had seen this work for a woman in a documentary. Soon there was a screeching noise as vehicles braked and then a loud bang! I saw with the corner of my eye that an auto had hit a car! I walked on regardless, while the stupefied policeman walked towards the mayhem. I do not think anyone was hurt as the traffic was slow moving!

In fact it is not just the fault of the drivers or policemen, you do see zebra crossings at main road junctions but pedestrians rarely use them and cross anywhere they like, it is a total free for all. There is no guarantee however that a pedestrian is safe on a zebra crossing. I remember one instance vividly. I was on an Auto (Rickshaw) and was shocked to see that the auto driver did not slow down for a pedestrian who was on the zebra crossing. In fact, he scared him by passing too close to the pedestrian and shouted in kannada which meant 'have you informed your people at home that you are not getting back?' When I tried to educate him about zebra crossing, his reply was typical. 'Auto brake 100% guarantee illa (no)'.

Yes, it is worrying while crossing a road, but you learn to manage as you understand the drift of the traffic and are able to distinguish the different types of drivers and try to read their mind, whether he would veer towards the left or right, as they rarely stop. There seems to be a method to this madness. Still it is your karma if you fail to read their mind correctly and if you happen to be hit while on a zebra crossing, you may die but you are not at fault in the eyes of the law. Some consolation for the bereaved family!

A note: I completed this after my return from Bangalore in May and I forgot about it for a while. It was meant to be somewhat an indulgent study of the differences between the three countries and an attempt to understand why, while we proclaim to the world about our values and keep sending e-mails about being Proud to be Indian, we are not able to bring some basic discipline into our people. But the unfortunate death of our relative Sulochana Prahlad in an accident near her home in Bangalore while going for her morning walk brought it closer home. I realize how near we all could be to becoming victims of these maniacs who ‘hit and drive on’ in callous disregard to what they have wrought. I even had nightmares of their laughter as they recount their narrow escape from being caught to others. For some reason I did not expect to see any remorse in them.'

(I saw this on BBC website. Hope that the horrendous numbers of death by road accidents, 100,000 in 2006, comes down. Date, 8 June 2008))
** Death on India's roads **
Chris Morris reports on India's chaotic and increasingly dangerous roads.
< http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/em/fr/-/2/hi/south_asia/7431714.stm >


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