You return to Bombay, after more than a month outside and hope that life is a wee bit simpler. In the city in specific and country in general. After all, the term developing nation ought to mean development. Actually, it only gets worse. I now have a term that defines the attempt to move from point A to point B: its called the sequential jam phenomenon. And I suggest you factor this into your calculations.

The highway leading to the domestic airport at Santacruz was jammed. Note that I was going in south to north (rush hour is normally in the other direction) at 8.30 am to catch a flight. I was tuned into 92.5 FM, the radio station I am usually tuned into while on the road. To my horror I discovered the hosts Jaggu & Taraana had switched subjects from the morning newspapers to discussing the same traffic jam. Obviously, the situation was worse, particularly on the other side of the road. Several callers were coming online to vent their feelings on the state of Bombay's roads.

One who made it through the switchboard was relentless. He rightly described the term highway for the Western Express Highway as a joke. He said no one cared for anyone and we were on the verge of anarchy. And then spewed venom against the city's civic authorities. I was praying I could be plugged in too. But then decided the challenge of maintaining one's emotional balance while trying to dodge traffic and predict my fate at the airline check-in counter was too much.

Pothole Highway

The radio hosts called it a discussion on the Western Pothole Highway or some such thing. They even created the appropriate abbreviation. Everyone laughed. With less than half an hour to go the flight to lift off, I wasn't finding it funny. I did dash off an SMS from mobile. In four lines, I explained the dire predicament I was in. I don't know whether they read it out because singer Himesh Reshamayya (I think) came on and began crooning amidst pounding beats.

After ten agonising minutes in the last 50 metres unto the traffic signal turning off into the airport, I reached the airport. There were 20 minutes to go. The counter was still open and I was miraculously checked in. Then came the traffic jam at the security check. Two lines stretching into infinity. Women could go into a third line. And then the airline attendant began calling out for passengers on my flight, late as it was. Along with two others, I was whisked into the third line for women. Most other passengers glared at us. I looked purposefully at my watch.

I was sitting inside a good five minutes before scheduled departure. Pulled out the newspapers and began catching up on the day's news. All ready to take off. Too soon. We were in the last of the traffic jams for the morning. The doors closed some 15 minutes after scheduled takeoff time. We crawled towards the runway for another 15 minutes. And took off a good 40 minutes behind time. I now propose to master the art of meditation in sequential traffic jams, of all sorts. Either that or levitation.


Hi! Govind,

Thanx for taking a look at my blog. Minor correction me is Nyayapati not Narayan. But what's in a name.

You have a problem with the Western Express Highway. Well! I am sure it is bad. But have you tried a Worli to Navi Mumbai drive? An absolute nightmare. My friend got to Vashi from Pune a couple of minutes before I got there and we started at the same time.
Anonymous said…
Sorry to hear about your pot-holed tale and I hope you got to your destination safely! But infrastructure in India needs a major overhaul…I sometimes wonder if we need to outsource this sector & if we don’t have the talent for designing or planning a city. These potholes may just make you late for an appointment but look at the money that it costs our economy. I am pasting the link for an article on Philips from Forbes and quoting the most important part:

“The factory is closer to China than to Bangalore and looks nearly the same as the Philips lightbulb factory outside Shanghai. The big difference at first glance is that the conformist Chinese wear uniforms while the Indians dress as they please, turbans and all.

Both the Indian and Chinese factories have simple assembly lines where workers insert the filament and support wires into shells of lightbulbs moving down the line. A machine lights up each bulb in a quality test. Yet the Indian factory is more efficient, churning out 460 incandescent bulbs per man-hour with a waste rate of 2.2% versus 388 bulbs per man-hour with a waste rate of 5% at the Chinese factory.

Why not make more bulbs in India? Poor infrastructure. Even for shipment within India, lightbulbs have to be packaged in corrugated cardboard tubes instead of thin boxes--otherwise they break when bumping around in the back of a truck along India's rutted roads. Because there are relatively few goods exported from India, sailings from India's ports aren't frequent enough for the global economy.”

Here’s the link:
Lubna said…
Aaargh... it is the same story everywhere. Had the same experience and have to travel again and am dreading it. Maybe SriSri should start a new course; Art of living in traffic jams; art of living while stuck on the runway; etc etc
Anonymous said…
Traffic is the same everywhere, even in LA :). But Mumbai/Delhi certainly take the cake. Anyhow, I loved the article, esp the names people come up with. 'Jaggu' - was that for real? :p
Bombay Addict said…
Hi Govind - I'm linking up to this post as part of my attempt on blogrolling some interesting experiences that bloggers have had in Bombay (in my Bombay Diaries blog. Hope that's fine with you. Thanks a lot.
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