Friday, June 4, 2010

Mumbai Savaari- an ode to Traffic Jams....

Thursday, June 03, 2010
By Bonsy Desai

My friend Mithila and I were to undertake the most tedious adventure of our lives on a humid, sweaty Monday evening in the month of May…a journey that would take us from Dadar to Ghatkopar to (what else could it be?) attend a friend’s brother’s wedding.

No really this is not a joke. Miths(as I like to call Mithila) and I were all dressed up to attend the wedding, both tired after a long day at work, and since evening hours are a peak time for local trains, we decided to hit the road. Big mistake!

Now I totally understand why people are okay with being glued to different body parts of each other, smelling sweaty armpits, hearing non-stop chattering and even hanging out of the local compartment holding onto a pole for their dear lives each day. Because anything is better than being stuck in a taxi in a Mumbai jam, your whole body sweating in some of your best clothes and your eyes glued to the taxi meter in the hope that this one journey will not leave you bankrupt.

Anyway coming back to our adventure, we started out smoothly at about 7 pm till at one point in our journey we got stuck in a by-lane of Chunnabhatti. After about a quarter- of-an-hour of crawling towards our destination, we decided to ditch our cab, and find a rickshaw because we did not want to reach the wedding venue to find everyone gone. Luckily we found a rickshaw, but unluckily our driver decided that he was Schumacher and the traffic-infested road his race track. Swaying madly from left to right, we both kept praying that we wouldn’t fall into the next dirty nullah, screaming to be heard over the crazy traffic chaos.

“But really, why don’t we use gutters and big, open nullahs and convert it into a transport system?” my friend asked me, as she held onto the side of the rickshaw, laughing at our plight. (Yes we were still at the laughing stage then.) “We could be the next Venice,” she said with delight, looking excited at her intelligent idea. This is what a traffic jam in Mumbai does to people I tell you! Miths had started picturing a gondola, a singing rower and a romantic ride…I could see a crazy man rowing a Mumbai gondola, screaming “Chala, chala puddhe chala,” as boats banged into each other, honking annoyingly and an occasional boat rower, with red goggles and all, singing, ‘ek pal ka jeena’ with the strange stench of Mumbai all around us. Eeks! Not a good plan I say.

Anyway our crazy ride was far from over. Our rickshaw sputtered to a stop in the middle of a bridge on the highway, exactly in the centre. We were then made to sit through ten minutes of a crazy, stimulation ride, the kind you experience when you see a 4D movie. Front, back, left, right. Left right, front, back we went on and on as our driver pulled on the lever with more and more aggression. Finally one of us finally had the good sense to suggest we find another rickshaw, and so we got out (don’t know how we thought we’d find an empty rickshaw in the middle of a highway bridge anyway.) After another ten minutes of cursing and waiting, we heard a loud engine noise, and Miths and I looked at each other and almost dived back into our old rickshaw (it had started working!)
Off we went again, and yet we were nowhere around Ghatkopar. Finally we reached Ghatkopar after some more tossing around in our little space, and decided to find another rickshaw driver who knew where our wedding hall was. After about twenty minutes of more chaos and confusion we were there! Starting time: 7 p.m. and arrival time: 9.30 p.m.

And you will probably die laughing when you hear that we had never met the bride or groom before their wedding day! (I swear it was almost as bad as emotional blackmail or else we would not have done this.) But as of now I have already warned my friend that if he decides to get married anywhere outside Dadar, an air-conditioned, chauffer driven car will be my most minimum requirement to attend. I’m not getting over this trauma anytime soon I tell you.

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