After much hassle, I had finally got the auto-rickshaw whose driver had agreed to take me to my office. Noticing his dirty clothes and shabby condition of the auto, I thought of initiating a conversation with him regarding cleanliness.
“Would you prefer to drive an auto or a taxi in a city as clean as… er… a foreign country?”, I asked him knowing that from the perspective of most of the Indians anything “foreign” is better, cleaner, safer and greater.
“Yes, of course! My son-in-law keeps traveling to London. He says it’s a very nice city. And look at the condition of Delhi! Its like a dustbin!”, the driver replied, visibly pleased that the passenger was talking to him.
And then it happened…
He slowed the vehicle a bit, leaned outside a bit and spat a large blob of saliva right in the middle of the road. So much for his cursing Delhi’s cleanliness. His saliva barely missed the trousers of a passing scooter driver and made an amazingly large blot on the road.
The Commonwealth Games 2010 are to take place in October in New Delhi. As the commencement date is approaching closer, the attempts, howsoever feeble, from the Delhi government have started for “teaching” Delhi’s residents how to behave! But I doubt if such little exercises, that too only at the time of such occasional events, would produce any visible and significant result. Let alone the sustainable results. In this regard, we need to do much more than such once-in-a-blue-moon attempts. And then it is not the responsibility of the government alone to teach civility to the citizens. Citizens themselves need to feel the importance of behaving better. And, as Mahatma Gandhi said, we need to be the change that we wish to see.
I’ve always had many a complaints with the general behavior of Delhi people. I have always had a wish-list of changes that I wanted to see in people’s behaviour. Unfortunately, though, this list has only grown with time. I have not lived in any other Indian city long enough to make a clear opinion but, I think, I can safely assume that these behavioral problems are not associated with Delhiites only. Give or take a few, all these problems are marring the culture of the entire nation.
Here is my partial wish-list of changes that I would request people to bring about in order to become a more organized, sensitive and responsible society:
1) Stop honking on roads (especially at the red signals): Delhi people love honking. Youngsters think it is their birthright to honk. They would vroom past you on their swanky bikes while “playing” the horn! Some people like to honk even after stopping at a red signal. God knows what runs in their minds at that time —perhaps they feel that they can fly their car over the traffic if only the car in front would have been an inch farther. As the signal turns green —honking grows into madness. Even the 50th car in the queue (if there would, at all, be a queue) start honking seeing the green light.
These motorists should understand that no one is planning to pitch a tent at the red signal. No one wants to stay there for the fun of it. Everyone has somewhere to go to and if the traffic is not moving, there must be some valid reason behind it. Honking won’t help a guy already irritated with a flattened tire.
2) Say cheese, smile please!: Delhi’s motorists have a short fuse (particularly if they are the one who has made the mistake!). People don’t understand that accidents and mistakes do happen on roads. To err on road is human too. But apparently every driver thinks that, given a chance, he could easily beat Schumacher in precision driving. Sit inside an auto-rickshaw and talk with the driver about driving manners in Delhi. The driver will give you a heavy dose of lecture on how stupid the Delhi drivers are and how thoroughly spotless he is. The next moment you might see him looking around like a thief and jumping the red light. Every Delhi motorist is a preacher of traffic civility which everyone, except himself, should practice.
3) Two-wheeler menace: There are millions of two-wheel vehicles on Delhi’s roads. Scooters of all kinds, mobikes, bicycles —you’ll find everything here. What irritates me about two-wheelers is that they try to go ahead on road with every possible (wrong) method. As though their vehicle’s smaller size and better maneuverability gives them the license to perch on curbs, dangerously crossing in front of bigger vehicles and to snake through the still traffic at a red signal. Two-wheeler drivers always try to take the front seats at a red signal gathering and for this they can go to any extent. I can’t imagine why a scooter driver can’t stop in his place between two cars. Why does he have to get past everyone, by jumping queues, and secure the foremost place in the gathering.
4) Jaywalking: It’s not only the drivers who need to learn to behave. Pedestrians are no less accused of misbehavior. I know that on countless places in Delhi there are no pedestrian crossings. But where there are provisions of crossing the road safely —even there the public tend to take shortcuts by crossing the road from wherever they are standing. The hapless Municipal Corporation installed fencing on top of the road dividing curbs. But the Delhi pedestrians are enterprising; either they would jump over the iron fence or break it to make the way through. Still we hardly get any medals in high jump or wrestling. These pedestrians appear to me like stray cattle of Delhi roads. They roam around on roads like oxen —oblivious of the perilous surrounding traffic. If someone has to stop to avoid accident —it would be the traffic.
This is the first installment of my wish-list. I will get back with the rest of the wishes soon 🙂