Comment, Satire

(Road) Rash rickshaw

The streets of Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, teach you a lot of things. One of them is the importance of being humble.

Take my case for example.

I was returning from office on a wet, windy day. My supervisor told me I was doing well in my new role as a content writer and I, to paraphrase Shah Rukh Khan, felt like the queen of the world.

The feeling vanished after I sat in the rickshaw I had hailed, determined to save myself a walk and metro ride to the train station. I clung to my seat as we zoomed off, holding onto the one, tiny handle located on one side of this world-famous vehicle. The driver, however, behaved as though he was invincible. And there lies the problem.

Most people on the streets of Mumbai behave as though they are either zombies or raging bulls. When spotted alone the specimen known as the pedestrian behaves like the former, completely unaware of his (or her) surroundings. The pedestrian’s behaviour pattern changes when he or she meets his/her fellow travelers. Together these men and women swarm across the zebra crossing as though they were the swarm of Pigeotos that attacked Ash and Pikachu in the first two episodes of Pokemon: Indigo League.

The second category comprise of vehicle operators, the worst of which are those astride their motorcycles. Then come the rickshaw wallahs¬†who swerve through traffic so fast that they are likely to cause nausea in an unsuspecting passenger’s stomach. When travelling by rickshaw a passenger is likely to experience a range of emotions; I felt frightened, amazed, amused and resigned all at once. The driver, however, remained as cool as a cucumber reminding me of my frailty.

A subcategory to watch out for is the fancy car driver. Now, the regular Honda City driver is a mere, frustrated mortal who channels his (or her) anger onto the roads. The fancy car driver, on the other hand, uses his vehicle to showcase his (or her) supremacy on the road. He will drive his swanky car in a foolishly rash manner and blame another driver or pedestrian for any damage he incurs. The widest range of abusive vocabulary can be heard when viewing, or engaging in, an interaction with  one of the Louis Vuitton and Lamborghini crowd.

Amidst all this chaos is the policeman, or hawaldar, who alternates between refreshingly helpful and obviously intimidating and judgmental. Nevertheless, my sympathies remain with him as he endures either the punishing humidity or the pouring rain that graces Mumbai through the year.

I’d like to spare a line or two for all the Mumbai Police advertisements that adorn the hoardings in the city. They are designed to discourage reckless drivers but may as well be beautifully laid out, ignored furniture in a very big, cluttered living room.

As a child I played a racing computer game called Road Rash which involved the player controlling a street biker who kicked and punched the other riders while making his way to the finish line. May be it is time we, in Mumbai, began playing Road Rash Rickshaw?

 

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