Monday, August 27, 2007

Lesson 2: The Solo Soldier

It happens only in India

I will not jump any red light today or allow those whose cars I ride in to do it either. That's my contribution today. Yours?

Traffic signals in India are like a microcosm in themselves. Much happens at a traffic signal: It’s a market place for everything from flowers to toys to magazines and incense stick, it’s a place where along with alms, lives, love and hope are found and lost. Some people sleep at traffic lights. Some fall in love – well they did in Kaho Naa Pyar Hai! Many earn their livelihoods on traffic lights; and I mean the beggars and vendors AND the money-extorting traffic cops. And also, traffic signals/lights have stories to tell. Stories that are played out daily, each time the light changes. Here, our first contributor, blogger Crimson Feet shares the story of the Solo Soldier.

The Solo Soldier (renamed from original blog)

The best part about moving from Bombay to Noida has been the drastic changes in my travel routine...
Local train ---> Royal Enfield Thunderbird
1hr 17 min one way ---> 17 min door-to-door
Expensive cab rides ----> Peaceful bike sojourns
Cramped roads with pollution ----> Wide roads with pollution ;)
Saturday night frenzy ---> Weekend travel to Dehradun/Rishikesh/Chandigarh/Lucknow etc

I like to have my Sony thump crooning my favrourite number right into my brain during these peaceful bike rides to and fro bet home and office. A few days ago I saw an old man shouting through a hand-held loudspeaker on a traffic signal on my way back from office.

His shirt read “Follow traffic rules”: Yatayat ke niyamon ka palan karein.

He was old but looked ferociously serious about what he was saying. I could only “see” him till I switched the thump off and tried to “hear” him. Too much noise, I couldn’t pick a word. The seconds remaining on the signal were getting closer to zero, and throttles were being pulled... He looked back, and with a thumping conclusion to his speech, moved aside to let the traffic pass...

Between Noida’s Sector 29 and 58, there are five-six traffic signals, and rule violation is so rampant, that when I decide to stop at a red light; I fear I will cause an accident because EVERY other commuter is jumping the red light and I am the ONLY one standing!

Still, PROUDLY yet, I do STOP when it’s a red light. Of course the worst part is when MY signal is green and I find commuters ready to bang into me irresepctive of their situation in life and on the road!

The old man seemed hesitantly proud of himself too. He looked "ignored" and YET had the conviction to keep doing what HE felt was a good thing to do... May be he had had a tragedy in his family, maybe he was mad. As I crossed him, I wanted to catch his eye and nod approvingly. He never looked At anyone, just stared blankly into nothing; and I felt him to be more alive than most of us commuters...

I think he should know that his effort is NOT going waste.

PS: Crimson Feet, thankyou for this.... Please tell him next time… And if anyone else living in Noida sees this old man, Stop, and thank. And DON’T jump that light.

Those interested in contributing: Please mail links or pieces you have written, or
pictures you have taken to :

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