The Capital Road Culture

Knowing your way around in Delhi is a matter of prestige. People actually call you from distances to ask you ways and you might be in the busiest of the meetings or in the middle of some very sweet moments of a date but you would just get out of whatever you are in middle of and proudly route the caller to his/her destination. And this prestige is attached to a lot of guys (and no women that I know of). So, this is one of the things that form part of Delhi’s daily life.

Just like any other metro in India, Delhi has its own share of traffic problems, specially for people travelling to/from Gurgaon or Yamuna paar. Its really interesting to observe human behaviour on roads. It seems to say more about a city’s basic nature alongwith the atmostsphere in public places of a city than any other thing like city’s annual events or whatever. I was watching a show on Discovery Travel & Living last night which said if you enter a restaurant in a city in England – you would hear people laughing, Germany – you would hear people talking, Italy – you would hear people shouting, Spain – you would see people watching soccer. The point is the behaviours are specific to countries or cities as they are correlated to the culture of the city – the way people there live their lives and spend their days.

I have spent time in Hyderabad, Bangalore and Delhi but I am out and out Delhi specialist without a doubt. I love the life here and wouldnt trade it for any other city in India (well, may be Pondicherry if there was a Punjabi Dhaba there). Talking about road behaviour in Delhi, I was driving my sister to her college yesterday morning which is around 30 km away from my place and across the river Yamuna and got stuck in this huge traffic on the way back (listening to Aerosmith & Berlin) when this guy in a car right in front of mine got out of his car, tucked in this shirt at different places to hide his belly, stood up on the divider and looked on to find out if there was any bottleneck due to any accident or anything else. Not that I doubt the good sight of a 40-something gentleman, but cmon dude, how are u supposed to see an event 3 miles away through all this traffic inbetween. Anyways, guy got down from the divider notting as if he just saw the traffic standing still for another couple of hours and starting taking off his shirt to beat the heat, and in the meantime, a dozen others had gotton out of their cars and were already on top of that damn divider look onto the same scene that our dude just concluded was hopeless. Each one of them was trying to stand the tallest on the divider and get a better view of nothing apparantly. Or may be not each one, this guy was actually looking elsewhere, ohh there he goes.. he actually was looking for a panwala, and got a welcome break to get a smoke… hmm interesting.

Not long before the traffic opened up and we started moving, and our dude was right alongside me looking desperately to move ahead of the cars around. You know how it is when you are in a bumper-to-bumper traffic and moving ahead of each car gives u a bit of satisfaction, how it feels when your lane is moving faster than the ones around. So, this guy was all proud and satisfied when suddenly his lane stopped dead and the other lane moved all across his face to a mile ahead. I remember the look on this face, he was completely frustated and desperately trying to find a way to fit in the next lane doing which he ended up bumping into another car.

Thats how people in Delhi are on road, competitive and in a hurry. When in a car, they crib the bikers getting into their lanes, and when on a bike, they crib the cars splashing water onto them. Bus drivers are even more competitive, they gotta beat the other buses on the same route to get that sweet spot on the bus stop, one bus stop after another. They wouldnt mind driving crazily to the other side of the road to get that extra mph and henceforth, the blocking sweet spot at the next busstop.

But, the biggest story of these all is the one about parking spot. Oh yes, its of utmost importance. Whether its outside your house, or office, or in a market parking. Not sure if you would have heard of a similar rule anywhere else, but in most parts of Delhi, a tenants cannot park his car in front of his house but has to park is elsewhere – may be in the backstreet or some other place, the front parking in most residential colonies are reserved for the house owners… interesting, aint it ? Not just that, parking spots outside office (on the service road) are strictly reserved for the cars belonging to the people working in that office (who might never show up). So, people reach office early just to claim one of those limited parking spots outside their office with an added advantage of avoiding traffic. Now, there are place around offices and houses, which are so to say the unclaimed parking spots. We have one such spot. Its a blue building couple of offices away which isnt occupied and has a capacity to park 4 cars. Now, you can make out from the smile on someone’s face in office that he got the blue building parking spot today and its like a game we play everyday. Those spots have become more important than parking the car in office parking nowadays. And, a gentleman in our office, if needed to go out for some work in the middle of the day, would take an auto to travel rather than taking his own car out just to hold on to that spot till the end of the day.

Thats how road culture in Delhi is… sounds fascinating ?


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