The day everyone forgets traffic rules

The fireworks started off well before it was the 1st of January. My cellphone flashed 11:56PM but I could already hear people screaming and the streets embroiling up with energy. Almost two minutes later I saw fireworks all around myself followed by an increase in honking on the streets below me. I peered down and saw this dramatic change but couldn’t give my complete attention because it was time for us to release the sky lanterns. I was in a small café in Kormangala and we were lighting up lanterns to mark the onset of the new year. My lantern was pink in colour on which we were asked to write a message or a wish. I couldn’t come up with a wish and instead settled for a quote by Dream Theater instead. My lantern struggled for a brief period of time before deciding to ascend into the Prussian blue sky. The four of us released our lanterns and we gazed until they disappeared into the night sky, travelling to places unknown. I remember telling my friend M, “Do you think anyone would find them and read our messages?” I hope someone did.

M’s father had decided to pick us up from Kormangala. We left the café and walked towards where the car was parked. After talking to her father, M said that the car was parked almost 1.5 kilometers away because the traffic was already bad and there was no way one could reach Sony Signal. By now, the city had a different life altogether. I saw scores of people walking down the road, most of them swaying like pendulums. A few scooty and bike riders passed us while wishing us a happy new year on the top of their lungs. There was hooting and whistling in all the directions followed by peppy, EDM music from the pubs and hotels nearby. M asked a bystander for directions because we didn’t know where Udupi Upahar was. M’s father was tensed as we were taking time to reach and he was already witnessing the chaos ensuing on the streets. We decided to book a cab after figuring out that walking won’t be feasible. The fireworks and the hooting continued. People riding bikes at unusual speeds continued to pass by, a lot of those pillion riders waved and continued to scream. I saw red and blue lights flashing on the distance.

The cab arrived and we got on board. M’s father had already called her around 5 times by now. The area near Forum Mall was jam packed. What made things worse were the people who were crossing the roads, the bikes which were maneuvering into every small gap possible, the hands flashed by almost every auto driver indicating that he would like to go first and the constant honking that blared from everywhere. Somehow, it seemed as if everyone forgot what traffic rules were. As we crawled through the crowd, our cab driver cautious enough to not make any mistakes, I saw the city coming to life in a way that I had never seen before. The streets were filled with people, people sitting on the pavements, people holding hands and waiting to cross the road, people who didn’t give a damn and crossed the road as cars braked rashly in front of them, people who were puking on the pavements, people inside cars bobbing their heads to loud music, people who looked tired and drunk and were trying their best to have a good time nevertheless. M’s dad called again and I was pretty sure that he was quite tensed because M’s vocal tone was increasing with each consecutive call. I was able to figure out that she was telling her dad to calm down and that we were on our way. By now, there were traffic policemen on the road and I saw a few more blue and red flashing lights.

We took a left from Sony Signal towards our destination and yet again the road was full of traffic. I saw a jeep in front of us with a few guys in it bobbing their heads to Cheap Thrills. It was evident that all of them were intoxicated as their faces and their driving displayed. One of them was fisting his hand on the air while whistling. Perhaps they were having a good time; perhaps this was their definition of fun and this was how they chose to express it. I looked at the phone of our cab driver and it showed that we were 900m away from our destination. M was still confused as to where her dad actually was. She was talking to him until a few seconds ago. I heard a crashing sound; the sound produced when a car hits another car and I saw that a white Swift Dzire had collided with a red Swift. The right sided back door which was facing the incoming traffic was dented. There was a sudden uproar from the people nearby. I was getting tensed when I heard M saying “Is that my dad’s car? Can you read the plate?” Her voice was a bit shaky. I read the plate aloud and she told me that maybe it was their car. We were still moving in a tortoise pace and I was able to see that nobody was there on the driver’s seat. I told M the same as she dialed her dad’s number. The white Swift Dzire meanwhile managed to get away although we got the license plate. Her dad confirmed that it was their car. People were hovering near the vehicle but nobody tried to stop the fleeing car. We decided to leave the cab and crossed the road. Another duo on a bike crossed our faces wishing us a happy new year while I was panicking because I so didn’t want the night to end up in a negative case. Fortunately, the damage wasn’t too much and a few bystanders informed us the car’s license plate number. Nobody talked for the first ten minutes on our way to Basavangudi until M said to her father that it was okay and that we have the registration number of the car, putting a hand on his shoulders. I felt dismal; somehow I felt that we were to blame for all that happened. On our way back, I saw the same unorganised traffic, the same drunk citizens crossing roads, the same honking and hooting and whistling.

I thought about the jeep and the white Swift Dzire. Maybe, it was drunk driving. Maybe, it’s not a way to have fun after all.

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