Monday, February 20, 2012

Spiritual management of traffic stress

I live in a beautiful mid-size town - Indore (MP) - that has an amazing sense of traffic. People create their own rules, and  live strictly by them. Some such rules that I have encountered are:

  • Move when the lights are red, and stop when green
  • Stop ahead of the 'stop-line'
  • Criss-cross the road without warning
  • Never cross the road at the zebra crossing

Many more ingenious versions of these exist in my nice little town.

Now as I am a law-abiding citizen, this gets me really worked up badly. I get angry when I see that a lot of citizens are simply, blatantly, and without a sense of remorse breaking all traffic rules. I start cursing them, and swearing at them, and ultimately have a bad headache.

A practising manager's spiritual pursuit
of equilibrium amidst chaos
And the beauty of it all : nothing changes! In fact, it gets worse by the day :)

So I have found a cure for this huge internal strife that goes on everyday I drive in my town. This intelligent formula is what I call "A practising manager's spiritual pursuit of equilibrium amidst traffic chaos". I will be submitting the writeup of this theory to one of the new IIMs soon for a technical paper presentation, under the modern evolving HR theme (the older, more established ones may not entertain me). Perhaps one of the leading newspapers will also feature me on their front page, with a catchy headline.

The guiding tenets of my newly discovered HR paradigm are:
  1. Realising the nature of the world:  The world was not made by me. Its guiding equations and variables were not set by me. In fact, even "I" was not made by "me". So I am not responsible for others' traffic behaviour. In fact, I may not be able to even control mine at times. So my-and-their behaviour seems intertwined in some freaky destiny.
  2. Realising the nature of fellow citizens: Everyone is a universe unto themselves. They have a whole existence that they have defined as sacrosanct, and it manifests most strongly on the streets, while walking, or driving a vehicle. So perhaps they feel that by being the driver of the last vehicle that crosses the red light, goes into the perpendicular lane, and clogs all the incoming traffic till their light turns red as well, thereby clogging the original lane's now incoming traffic, there's spiritual bliss in that sheer moment of joy as it represents the Universe's creation theme. Galaxy after chaotic galaxy bumping into each other and tearing everyone apart. Wow. The Universe's original theme playing itself out on the humble streets of my town.
  3. Realising the nature of the Police: They are a busy lot. In the middle of mulitple construction projects going on, on the streets of my city, they have to somehow stay alive while breathing the little God's good air that comes along with tonnes of dust, grime, CO, N2O and other poisons each moment. So we cannot expect them to sternly make people follow rules. Perhaps it's not even worth the pittance they're officially paid per month. So ...
  4. Realising the nation's scorching growth rate: India is moving fast. We have grown at 7% for almost a decade now. This means prosperity for many more. And that means more vehicles - 2 wheelers and cars. So on the same roads, we will have more and more of these automobiles. For a few decades, surely we can live with extra stress. Economic growth is more important. We - the humble, ordinary tax-paying citizens - cannot undo the untiring toil of decades nurtured inside the byzantine portals of India's planning commission.. now that all that's going to suddenly help India leapfrog into superpower status.
  5. Realising Darwin's modified principle for India's, and my town's, streets: While on the pristine Galapagos islands, the senile old man called Charles Darwin got it all wrong. The real theory of evolution has to be witnessed in live action - yes, live evolving action - on my town's streets. It's called - Survival of the Luckiest. Isn't that truly cool? Every night you go home, and wife gives you a warm hug, you can proudly display that you are home in the same shape that you left? (Yes, yes.. for women who drive, their husbands can check the same too). This sense of achievement can only be obtained by living through such wonderful conditions. For husbands, it's infinitely greater.
  6. Men will be men: And so will be the women. And the kids below 18. And everyone else on the streets driving one of the new fangled autos. Why worry? This is destiny. Even my kids sitting in the back (with strict instructions not to keep throwing the plastics and cups and cones on the street without so much as a nanosecond of second thought - as most people in South Asia seem to relish doing) find it absolutely natural that traffic has to snarl up like this (after all, only the other day their school-bus driver got abused and hit by rowdies who barged in, from a perpendicular direction, and got all messed up). Kids are groomed automatically in the serene tune of Universal disharmony. 

Once this theory and its six tenets were perfected, I was in a state of bliss. I realised the inner beauty in the middle of all the chaos on my streets. I saw the molecules, atoms, cells, chromosomes, even the dna floating around challenging all my previously held assumptions. And it was a truly a moment of awakening.

Till I reached a much-cherished T junction. And waited patiently for the light to turn green. And it did. And the bloke from the other lane jutted in his brand new metallic-grey Toyota Fortuner (you can't even see the menacing drivers in any of these SUV monsters running amok on my town's streets nowadays) so none could move. And lo! The lights went red again in the meantime. And the traffic policeman - with all the peace of a rishi emerging from a ten year sadhana - came asking me for "licence and papers Saab"... and I felt like screaming on top of my voice...

And suddenly I remembered the six tenets. And the primordial Universe started floating all around me.

Bliss. Total bliss.

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Shoaib Qureshi said...

Dear Sir, I enjoyed reading the entire blog and could imagine you delivering it on a stage with full delight :-) Since this post revolves around Indore and as someone who is in eternal love with the city, I would like to put forth a few comments,

I used to drive my bike very decently in Indore, never fined for breaking any traffic rules. But here in Bangalore, I have already been fined thrice!! I have now come to a conclusion that even if you follow all the traffic rules, ofcourse some rules have a few 'Indori' assumptions associated with them, you may still be fined in other cities!! So here are the three assumptions that landed me into an interaction with the traffic police,

1. Yellow is Green! - Yellow is actually a red signal for all the vehicles that are yet to cross the zebra crossing. So only the vehicles that managed to cross the zebra crossing (while the signal was green) should be crossing the road when the signal turns yellow.
(Indori Assumption - When the traffic policeman leaves for home at night, he turns on the yellow light! Yellow has nothing to do when its there between red & green, infact we can cross the road for first 'few' seconds of red as well :-D. Oh and by the way what is zebra crossing?)

2. Left is free - I have never seen a traffic signal for left in Indore. Because of the heavy traffic in other cities, left turns are not free and you can take the turn only when its green.
(Indori Assumption - "Bhiya left se nikaal lo")

3. What's in the numbers? - Some areas in other cities have a rule of allowing the parking vehicle on particular dates/days. For ex. one has to park on the left side of the road on odd dates and on the right side of the road on even dates. There are other areas where you cannot park on weekends/holidays.
(Indori Assumption - One can park anywhere one feels like or finds the suitable space. If you are at a place only for 5-10 minutes, you can park in "No Parking" as well!)

I have been penalized for these three assumptions and I hope there are no other assumptions left in my 'Indori' mind as these cost minimum of Rs. 100 every time :-)

PS - I realize my comment is somewhat big, maybe I can post it as a blogpost on my blog :-)

vhjamdar said...

Connecting the dots. Excellent sir.