Friday, December 21, 2007

Quick rant about jaywalkers

Such are the many transgressions of vehicle-drivers on Delhi roads that we sometimes lose sight of the rule-flouting done by pedestrians. These are the people who are most at risk and you’d think they would know this - but no, they walk out into heavy traffic, arms extended, confident that passing drivers will do whatever needs to be done to extend their lives, and forgetting that when you're driving in Delhi, the killer instinct is much more potent than the saviour instinct. So it was good to see recent newspaper coverage about jaywalkers being randomly hauled up and fined for not heeding traffic signals. (Never mind that it was a one-day initiative, like most other public-safety measures, and that we will never hear about it again.)

This strikes a chord because one evening a few weeks ago I was driving from South Extension towards the Ashram flyover at a speed not exceeding 55 km/hr when a young boy sprang out from behind a bush on the divider, two metres in front of my car. That this boy still has all his limbs intact (and is no doubt using them to jaywalk about the city even as you read this) can be attributed to the following:

a) I slammed the brake as hard as I could (in the process jeopardizing my own safety since it was a busy road and there might have been another car racing along just behind me; thankfully there wasn’t),

b) The panic-stricken youngster slipped and skidded about in such a way (the movements are too convoluted to describe, just think of a drunken tap dancer on fast-forward) that most of his lower body (still attached to the upper half) ended up on the right side of the car rather than the front – thus saving his kneecaps from being mashed into fine powder,

c) Since most of his upper body was flailing about atop the bonnet, he might easily have fractured an arm at least, but he had some textbooks in his hand, which he reflexively thrust at the windshield in a much-too-literal rendition of the “Knowledge is Power” theme. The impact left the laminated glass on my side of the windshield bent inwards in a stylish concave design (it looked so cool
, like someone had fired a bullet at the car from a distance, that I briefly considered not getting it replaced; with winter smog around the corner, visibility wasn’t going to be a factor anyway).

The whole thing makes for a good dinner-table story now (especially when I exaggerate it to include the passing UFO that sucks the boy up after the incident and carries him away for a research project on Single Brain-Celled Humans), but that doesn’t detract from how badly it could have turned out. With just a little less luck, or one extra misstep, this kid would be dead (his family no doubt wailing to the newspapers the next day that he was an upstanding citizen who could never think of doing anything remotely irresponsible) and I would be asking the prison authorities for Wi-fi so I could write this post from my cell. It’s a scary thought, because who ever heard of Wi-fi in an Indian prison?


  1. It could also be that your car's breaking efficiency is excellent . Stopping just short of two metres at 55KMPH needs a lot of good luck and also a decently designed braking system.

    Thank your heavens that you had both. Also that you kept your temper in check after this incident and somehow extract the humour in such a situation proves you have a healthy funny bone as well.

  2. Shwet: yes, brake efficiency was key too. On another occasion, which I wrote about in this post, it wasn't so good.

    I didn't keep my temper in check, to be honest. My first instinct was to leap out of the car and beat the creature to a fine pulp, but he ran off as fast as he could, the cars behind were honking madly, and anyway I'm not that strong.

  3. A lot of people (and motorists) don't even the get the distinction of pedestrian and rights thereof.
    On Mumbai roads, at peak hours, one lane is entirely taken up with pedestrians.. Its an exercise in patience to drive but them there are times when I feel bad for them.. cause there are no pavements to walk on. But yes, in delhi that's not a complaint one has..

  4. >> Braking efficiency
    Then I guess you weren't using Apollo Tyres which has the tagline of "Unstoppable"

  5. Radhika: heh. That is so not the right tagline for a tyre that has to operate on Delhi roads.

    On Mumbai roads, at peak hours, one lane is entirely taken up with pedestrians

    bluespriite: in Delhi, Blueline bus drivers don't let such trivial details stop them from ploughing ahead.

  6. Methinks pedestrian licenses are required!

  7. (Never mind that it was a one-day incentive, like most other public-safety measures, and that we will never hear about it again.)

    "Initiative", methinks you mean ...

  8. Maybe make Jaywalking a serious crime like in Singapore where there was a big controversy when an American kid was caned in public for jaywalking!!!

    Looking forward to the UFO angle..Will help in spicing up the banalities of everyday accidents that we have grown used to by now...

  9. Anon: thanks, have changed it

    Dipali: won't work. They'll get fake licenses, just like the bus-drivers do

    E Pradeep: maybe they could set a system in place - on specified days, pedestrians get to cane bus-drivers and on the other days bus-drivers cane pedestrians. Would also help deal with the road-rage problem.

  10. I dont know what is the situation in other places, but down here, there are so many dogs around the town, that while driving (esp on the smaller roads and in night)with my kinda headlights (which I need to check if its on, by keeping a hand before it) - the dogs take perfect advantage (or should I say revenge) of the situation! Generally, these animals are so clever that they plot while we are at a distance (I cant counter plot bcos of the headlight issue, which I am yet to resolve) and when we get close, they tease and run in such zigzag manner that I some times dash. Animal activists, rejoice as I dash not the clever dogs, but the poles, gates or sometimes even cyclists. I turn and give my best possible angry stare at them and how do they react? Give you an innocent, I was trying to avoid you - you came with your eyes closed kinda look! What makes me always suspicious about this kind of victimization is, whether I am the only target for all dogs in my city, or ppl in other cities also have fallen victims to the dog- games (Maybe they think that I am bored, you are bored, why dont we play for sometime and make life atleast interesting, if not meaningful), which sometimes makes a boring routine night return, a very nerve-wrecking one!!

  11. Destination Infinity: I feel your pain. In Delhi too, certain dogs have this aggressive tendency to run straight at or after cars (and then look sheepish and apologetic if the car actually stops).

  12. Jai: Just to add my two-bit, mainly because you've taken the words out of my keyboard here.

    And you've already commented on me being sexist!

    PS: Today, I was asked to spell "axbxnqyc".

  13. E Pradeep said...
    Maybe make Jaywalking a serious crime like in Singapore where there was a big controversy when an American kid was caned in public for jaywalking!!!

    Are you an idiot? He was caned for vandalism - it's a mandatory sentence.