I drove along at break-neck speed. The stretch of Mysore road near Bapujinagar sees the worst of the bus and lorry traffic with only a single lane on both sides available for buses and lorries to snake through. If you are on a two-wheeler you are either stressed with the narrow space available to you on the left where you have to deal with sudden and rough road edges, or you have a field time weaving in and out between the big vehicles, feeling almost like elves taking on Oliphaunts. From a nervous starter on a bike a month back I can say I strictly belong to the latter category now.
I stayed on the left for the most part, cutting past the buses and lorries while sidestepping the road edges by inches, before maneuvering to the right between a bus and a lorry, inviting angry honks from the cut off lorry. On the right there were more big ones from the opposite side- buses, lorries and tempo travellers trying to beat each other before the bottleneck of Bapujinagar. I stayed a narrow course on 3rd gear, at a steady 30 Kph between the big vehicles on both sides before the traffic from across tried to merge in. The speed went up as I noticed a narrow gap between a bus that was stopping, a Maruti omni that was turning right from the opposite direction and was waiting for me to pass and another lorry behind the bus which I figured would block the auto trying to make a quick left. The calculation was precise and I just made it in a narrow gap before I sped along to take on a bus climbing up the hill, along with scores of other two-wheelers, like a clan of hyenas trying to take down a fleeing elephant separated from its herd.
The bus done, the road widened into a massive 4 lane stretch where there were more vehicles trying to climb up the hill. All of them were raced past before Guddadahalli was passed and the road narrowed again. This is the most treacherous part of Mysore Road where the traffic is also higher and moves along at a weird pace, faster than it normally does for that volume. Buses have stops on the left and tend to swerve left without notice, while on the left, there is a fall of at least a few inches at the edge of the road where you are likely to lose control if caught on the wrong foot.
I sped along. There was only one bus with a lone Activa on its left. I sped up to the bus and tried to take him from the right. The median was too close by. I moved to the left. The Activa had positioned himself right in the middle between the bus and the edge of the road. I honked. It was my right of way and no one was going to deny it. He did not budge. The bus and the Activa were going at the same pace, the Activa barely managing to stay on the road. I let out a long angry honk trying to induce him to speed up and overtake the bus. Still nothing. Forced to reduce speed I fell behind the Activa waiting for the road to widen before I could overtake.
The gear dropped to the 2nd and I felt myself losing it. An angry honk followed. I swore at the man inside my helmet. I kept on with sudden advances at the vehicle. There was nothing to go on. I imagined being next to the guy and kicking his Activa out of the way. These are the ones who are slowing Bangalore traffic. These are the kind of drivers that should be banned. You can only do that much to improve the traffic. The ultimate solution is to eliminate all slow driving. It sounded right.
And then, there was a gap. The man immediately moved to the left giving me way to pass. I sped in and as I passed, turned around to look at the man- the object of my utter fury. It was an elderly man, easily in his 60s. And instead of obstinacy all I could see on his face was a trace of fear. At having to be in such close quarters to an unruly bus with a 6 inch drop on his left.
Without a word, I moved on, ashamed at my own reaction to what eventually amounted to less than a minute’s delay, a gain which would have been wiped out at the next big traffic junction. Moments spent in the bus gazing out at traffic are spent swearing that I’d never be one of those drivers, cutting across, speeding along and whizzing past others at unsafe speeds. And the moment I am on the bike, I realised I was becoming one of them – adding to the insanity in an already insane and unsafe environment.
And where was I in such a hurry to go? I couldn’t even remember the destination. There wasn’t any in particular. What is it that was driving me mad? It definitely wasn’t that I was late for something. Was it just a simple thing that I could not do as I pleased on the road and someone’s slowness was the reason? Or was it just our normal reaction to anyone whom we consider slow?
The last one is sadly our reaction to anyone in every walk of life. The colleague who can’t follow what we are saying and needs to be explained slowly, the man at the ATM who is reading through all instructions and thinking ten times before pressing the next button, or the one who’s at the head of the queue and takes longer than usual because she has a set of ‘dumb’ questions to ask.
Either way, the lesson was learnt, and more than for the sake of others or the traffic I resolved not to end up that way for my own sanity. It’s meant less cutting through unsafely, a lot less honking unless someone is on the phone while driving or crossing the road, (in which case I go closer and give them a long, deliberate one, just for the love of it!) and a lot more patience on the road while respecting others’ choice of speed or driving ability.
But of course, I still swear under my helmet, but mostly at people on the phone, cutting through or trying to make a quick one across the road before the signal…oh well, you know the kind!