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An Encounter With Mumbai's Traffic Jam

By Vidhi Kumbhat

The unseizing high pitched sounds of “peep-peep” by the ocean of automobiles surrounding my car, pierced my eardrums, not like sharp arrows, but shrill arrows shot from the dreadful bow of Mumbai’s traffic. Can you imagine listening to these sounds accompanied by the heat of an afternoon of May that too for two hours, forty-five minutes, and twenty-eight seconds? Yes, I kept track of the exact time as every moment was arduous for me.

This scenario was totally unexpected. I was in an exhilarated mood as I was heading towards my grandmother’s house in South Bombay. But on my way, I was stuck in an almost never-ending traffic jam on SV road. The road had a steep slope, and being on the top of the inclined surface, I could see about a hundred cars, which looked like little, but very colourful and noisy blocks, all still, completely motionless. Being completely idle, sitting alone in the car with the driver in the front seat, I started looking around. I saw some people who were dressed in formals and it gave me a hint that they were heading for work. Some of them looked tensed as though they’d be fired if they didn't reach on time. Some looked cheerful as though they got a good excuse for getting some free time from work. I saw some people who were on two-wheelers. They looked as if they were burning with heat and drowning in sweat. However, there were a few who took a good advantage of this still and stubborn beast - the street vendors, who rushed from car to car urging people to buy their goods. Out of those vendors, one had boxes of the king of fruits. Oh! How the sweet and sour smell of those palm-size fruits tickled my nose! These vendors must have benefitted a lot that day as the people had nothing to do except to gaze at the signal which refused to change colours. Amidst these, I saw something that struck my heart and filled it with grief. There were several ambulances, stuck in the unmoving traffic jam. They had no way to reach the hospital. I thought about the patients inside the ambulances who must be struggling between life and death urging God to spare one more breath. I also saw a fire engine which must be heading towards a place to rescue people. I thought how those people too may be suffering. Then I saw a bus filled with several college students. They all were weeping grievously. Then I remembered, that on that day Maharashtra’s twelfth standard boards were going to be held. Being late for just one examination, could have such a chronic impact on their career and their following life. Unable to restrain the grief and the sounds of the sirens and the crying students I started weeping.

Then I looked at my watch. It was almost 5:00 p.m. I thought how eagerly my grandmother must be waiting for me. Those old hands must be longing to pat my forehead, and my head was impatient to feel her blessings. I was supposed to eat my lunch with her, but I did not reach there before six. A few impatient people trapped in the traffic jam began to find their way out by forcing their vehicles up the foot paths and going in a senseless criss-cross manner, which made SV road look like a labyrinth. At last, a team of traffic police came, and after half an hour, everyone was able to proceed towards their destinations.

At last, I reached my grandmother's house. She was full of anxiety and stress due to my absence and as a gift of old age her blood pressure shot up. She took a while to get back to normal, and as the world says that most Indians are fussy and argumentative, the headlines of the following day’s newspaper were: “ A petty argument between an auto driver and a bus driver in the middle of the road held about two hundred vehicles, caused four deaths in the ambulances, thirteen students missed on their examinations and two deaths due to the uncontrolled fire. These are the adverse effects of the famous ‘Mumbai's traffic jam’.”

By Vidhi Kumbhat

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