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An eerie ride on Hyderabad’s empty roads during COVID-19 lockdown

Abhinay Deshpande shares a photo of the Charminar during lockdown   | Photo Credit: Abhinay Deshpande

I always make it a point to be at office during national holidays. To be honest, it is the joy of driving on relatively traffic-free roads that mostly motivates me to be at work on those days. When the lockdown was announced, all I could think of were the empty roads and the pleasure of driving on them. You can zip away, reach home from work in 20 minutes, and feel like ‘the road belongs to me.’

However, when I finally got a chance to drive on the road (while taking my mother to a hospital on a medical emergency) I was plain confused; I realised I just couldn’t drive beyond a speed of 60 kilometres per hour! No, it is not due to the barricades or checks by the cop tents, it is the incredible emptiness of the roads that confused me the most. Having lived and driven around the city for almost two decades, I usually boast about being well-versed with the city roads and shortcuts through bylane. Yes, I am a bit of a show off that way.

But this time I was baffled when I had to stop at my everyday turn at All Saints Church, to reassure myself that it was the correct left turn to reach Trimulgherry crossroads. The road seemed new because it was absolutely empty and the usually open gates of the army quarters were shut. I found myself having to re-adjust my vision to a road with not a soul in sight.

My misery was not yet over. Minus traffic signals, I had to wait and look around several times to reassure myself that there was no vehicle or human being zipping past. Empty roads are usually more dangerous than busy as everyone is usually tempted stepping on the accelerator. Add to it the dangers of pedestrians deciding to cross the roads unmindful of, or not bothering to check for, an approaching vehicle.

Those who drive will know how helpful navigation mirrors are. Try driving on an empty road and you will see that you don't just have to depend on the navigation mirrors but also keep a very keen eye out at every nook and turn. The lockdown roads could also make you miss some turns at traffic signals because we are used to slowing down at certain stops owing to the routed traffic.

A lot of people say they are jealous that journalists can drive around even during the lockdown. Truth be told, it’s not enjoyable; the fact is journalists find it eerie. Empty roads and closed shops also make us worry about how small establishments or the corner tea shop vendor is surviving. Driving on empty roads will remind you of Zombie or apocalypse movies you have watched or perhaps, it will remind you of Will Smith from I Am Legend. The fact however remains, we are a part of a pandemic and we must go through with this.


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Printable version | Dec 6, 2021 3:12:18 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/covid-19-lockdown-and-a-ride-on-hyderabads-empty-roads/article31385685.ece

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