The much-maligned Indian roads are, in fact, true symbols of democracy with deeply entrenched values of liberty, equality and fraternity. Those unfamiliar with these roads may take them at face value, but I take them as great levellers and equalisers. A pedestrian, a cyclist and a rickshawwallah — all enjoy the same rights on the road as does any four-wheeler-rider.
Our roads know no bias — the potholes don’t flatten for the Sedans and the SUVs. There is complete annihilation of social hierarchy, where even a petty scooter can challenge the supremacy of a mighty truck. All that the former does is overtake the latter from the left! Moreover, whether one owns a Merc or a Nano, and whatever the horsepower of one’s ego, all travel at the same speed of 20 km/hr. If ever one moves ahead of the other, don’t worry, the Indian roads will always have a railway-crossing from where the race starts afresh!
The story doesn’t end with man and machine; in fact, the path belongs to man and animal alike. Such is the reverence shown to animals that an entire entourage of traffic diverts just to accommodate a family of cud-chewing buffaloes out on an evening stroll. Why only divert, many have even laid down their lives (as well as taken a few other lives along with them) in trying to save a humble cow or a dog!
Such piety isn’t reserved for animals alone; gigantic flyovers are built to protect a middle-of-the road temple or mazaar. Surely, it was on the Indian road where Milton got stuck in a Dusshera procession and wrote inspiringly, “They also serve who only stand and wait.”
According to Indian philosophy, the body is like a piece of clothing only to be changed with time, but the soul remains the same. One can never understand it better than on the Indian roads where the lowly cow becomes the traffic cop and the traffic cop becomes a holy cow. Now this holy cow by day turns an extortionist by night. Same soul, different skin!
Long before the Greeks, it was the Indian roads that taught us the deeper meaning of beauty lying in the eye of the beholder. The concept of ugly and beautiful is interchangeable and relative. Such profound truths cross the mind when you see the parks and garbage dumps looking alike on the roadsides.
It is said that it is never too late in life to turn over a new leaf. Whenever you wish to change the course of your life, you needn’t announce it to the whole world. Just take a mute turn whichever way you choose on the great Indian road — and you will see that everything else falls into place.
The Indian roads give us the liberty to choose how to renounce life. When you drive the bike with one hand, skilfully handle the mobile with the other and balance two freeloaders on pillion, you know you are dexterous enough to dodge death. Besides, to make you realise the ups and downs in life, some sensitive souls have built weird structures called speedbreakers. If enlightenment has still evaded you, don’t go far looking for a mountain or an ashram — just an open manhole ahead is enough to make you realise the depths of life. Even God doesn’t help those who don’t help themselves; then why should the traffic lights save you? Can’t you see the bulldozer coming?
The most redeeming feature of the Indian road is that you need not be politically right. No one cares whether you are a leftist or rightist as long as you are at the centre. Such is its unifying power that even a concrete divider can’t divide us. None can ever distinguish the aayaa-Rams (the ones coming) from the gayaa-Rams (the ones going). This is what is called true political freedom.
Finally, we mothers and sisters are grateful, for, had it not been for the Indian roads, our menfolk would never have remembered us so often in such trying situations.
Long live the Indian roads!
(The writer is a daily commuter in Varanasi and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Our roads know no bias — the potholes don’t flatten for the Sedans and the SUVs. Even a petty scooter can challenge the supremacy of a mighty truck.