Saturday, January 05, 2008

Flyovers down under

[From my Metro Now column]

I’ve concluded that the multi-level underground parking lots in Delhi’s newest malls are versions of the clover leaf-shaped flyovers that are staples in big cities around the world. In fact, if you can picture a clover flyover that goes deep down into the ground, it’s practically the same thing.

Many of us still have trouble understanding the logic that dictates the construction of flyovers, especially the complicated, winding ones. But in a large urban centre where the vehicle count rises exponentially while the geographical area stays constant, one way to prevent an eternal traffic pile-up is to keep increasing the road length within a restricted area. (The other ways are too gruesome to mention here.) Simply using direct routes to get from point A to point B is no longer feasible, so roads must constantly be elevated. Or designed in fancy shapes where you no longer simply turn right if you have to go right. This is what you do instead:

Turn left.
Then turn right thrice.
Next, turn left two more times and take four consecutive U-turns.
Now make your car jump up and down like the jeeps in cops-and-robbers scenes in Hindi films of the 1980s.

If you follow all these steps carefully you’ll find yourself back where you started – and now you can turn right and go down the road that will take you to the next clover-shaped flyover.

The multi-level underground parking lots in the Select Citywalk mall in Saket and the Great India Place mall in Noida are based roughly on the same principle: keep vehicles moving in circles for as long as possible while vaguely maintaining the illusion that they will get somewhere in the end. On my last visit to Select, I spent close to 15 minutes driving about in a subterranean maze: making countless hairpin turns, following what must have been dozens of “Vehicle exit” signs and encountering dozens of parking attendants with arms outstretched (unless it was the same parking attendant trying to be funny) before my car finally saw the light of day. Exiting, I noted that the total mileage I had clocked up in the parking lot was 3.2 km; I also noted that the spot where my car had been parked was approximately 40 feet away from the point where I eventually escaped the dungeon.

I dream of a future where this city will have multiple flyovers, one piled up on top of the other, with new mini-cities constructed on the topmost ones, so that a flyover eventually becomes not the means to an end but the end itself. And where people will visit malls not for the shopping but for the thrill of being able to zip around in underworld labyrinths for hours on end, because the city roads outside will all be jammed.


  1. Hilarious fact indeed ! We in Chennai are reeling under the wave of flyovers and mini flyovers being constructed everywhere.

  2. but for the thrill of being able to zip around in underworld labyrinths for hours on end, because the city roads outside will all be jammed.

    Or if you saw the episode Gridlock in last season's Doctor Who, you might find that the subterranean drive paths are jammed as well!

  3. Ha ha! That was funny. And we have copied the concept in our Pune malls too. Where else can people get to drive their cool, new cars...not on the crowded roads outside for sure! :-)

  4. hey! Isn't it good for amateur drivers?! They can peacefully practice their turns and gears in the parking lot. And so many parking attendants to help around.

  5. Sangeetha: excellent point! Driving schools should seriously consider renting space in mall parking lots.

  6. Come now, Jai. Let's not be naive here. You know it's all part of the Sith's plans to make our capital like Coruscant.