I have to cross a railway signal each day I commute to work. Its a busy junction, train passes every half hour and so traffic comes to a standstill quite often.
The roads are quite narrow at this junction, thanks to the apathy of our civic developers. This junction is surrounded by a slum and the other side has Indian Army facility. So there is no question of widening the road. The trains are quite frequent, as soon as the alarm starts notifying that the train is due to arrive; motorists, cars and rickshaws zoom in to cross the railway signal before the boom barriers are down. The area gets chaotic, vehicle from 6 sides trying to cross the signal. Large vehicles move inch by inch. Your ears are treated with incessant honking, whistles of the gate-man and the traffic controller and swear words by drivers. Occasionally a fight between two drivers; one whose vehicle was nudged and the other who nudged. Everyone is in a hurry to reach their destination, no one cares.
Pedestrians running amok as if a bomb just went off, trying hard to sneak it between vehicles to cross the road before the gates are down. The poor gate-man finally succeeds to bring the barriers down. The vehicles idle; while few pedestrians and 2 wheelers try to cross the signal by going under the barrier; stealing in few more minutes to reach their work on time.
Amidst all these chaos, just the other side; one can witness the complete opposite. The life of slum-dwellers; laid back, leisurely; as if the world has come to a standstill. The kids are dirty, ruffled and unkempt, playing with marbles and sticks in the mud. Occasionally wiping off their running nose, using cuss words unaware of its meaning; moms and grand moms scolding them. Sitting outside their hatched tiny hut, dirty and unkempt, lazing away under the harsh wind and the morning sun. For them; this chaos; people with lunch bags running behind a crowded bus to board it, vehicles honking incessantly never mean a thing. They don't understand why these folks are behaving in a mad way and what are they chasing. But for this crowd; they are too busy to even take a look at that leisurely life; wake up to no deliverable, no deadlines and no schedules. The only worry for those kids is how many marbles to pocket; for the women folks - what to gossip about. They are oblivious to everything else around.
Last week it was a bit different. Instead of the regular 10 minutes
wait at the junction, the traffic was halted for almost an hour. Reason -
a passenger train halted right at the junction. Never knew what for. I
guess either it developed a technical snag or the train did not get
go-ahead signal. Whatever, the traffic piled up. Ant it gave me an
The usually idling vehicles stopped, initial restlessness gave way to sluggishness and yawns. Autos halted; 2 wheelers stopped, the riders relaxed and took off their helmets. Someone started fiddling with his mobile phone, occasionally looking around. Someone thought of finishing some job and called up his junior and gave instructions. A hunk ruffled his hair on and off to grab some attention. Commuters from the bus looked around for some entertainment; most of them with their headphones on; listening to gibberish of these radio jockeys.
An auto rickshaw driver walked towards the train to get some news; my driver followed as well and they chatted; maybe each one shared tips as to how to launder money from helpless passengers. A neatly dressed man in suit in a chauffeur driven luxury car was oblivious to the outside environment; reading newspaper. Few commuters alighted from the bus and thought walking was better; they crossed the signal by walking through the doors of the halted train. College goers with funky outfits and accessories, working people hastily dressed; people of all kinds. Someone thought it was time to groom; so cleaned his nails and blew his nose. A cab driver kept tuning the FM radio hoping to hear some nice music. A girl in an auto rickshaw coochie-cooing with her boy friend; giggling and all that. Train passengers looking out of the window witnessing the hapless crowd gathered.
Someone saw a business opportunity; he quickly put in some goodies of cigarettes, candies and bananas in a tray; collected from his shop and did a quick round selling his goods for people who were waiting for the train to move and the traffic to clear.
Continued for a while; the the train started and left the signal, barrier up; vehicles started. The lazy and slow world that was evident few minutes ago was long forgotten. It was chaos all over again.