I just landed in India and was warned about the impeccable Covid behavior of my fellow citizens: the main reason why Corona was at bay during the surge elsewhere in the world! I was prepared with my mask in the pocket.
As there was strict curfew due to the Omicron virus, Eddie uncle offered to pick me up, as no taxi driver was ready to come to the airport.
The old man turned up with his scooter!
“Where will I keep my bag, old man”? I questioned.
“Here” he pointed at the place behind his bum “and you hold it tight when you sit here” he showed me the back seat of the scooter.
“I think I will get a prepaid taxi. We can put your scooter on the carriage” I laughed.
“There is strict section 144 due to Amirkhan” he said.
“Omicron, you mean” I corrected.
“Yes, Amirkan” he nodded.
He quickly wore his helmet, handed me one and slid his mobile phone in between the padding of the helmet and his ear. I didn’t know till then that the padding was for the phone and I didn’t realize when he dialed.
“Yes, Verina. Your husband reached” that was it. The phone remained there.
“Where is your mask Uncle” I wore the worn- out helmet, which had seen better days for sure.
“Here” he showed me the mask hanging like a chain on his neck.
“You said it was strict here”
“It is” he said non chalantly “don’t waste time. The parking fees in this airport is almost the same as your ticket from Dubai”.
We rode and my god, what a ride it was! Eddie uncle was a beast on the road- the road that never had foot paths, the road that never had drains, the road that never had manners!
At one busy junction, Eddie uncle kept his finger on the shrill horn button of his scooter and just bulldozed his way to the top of the junction, way past the zebra crossing, almost close enough to kiss the uninterested traffic cop.
“What the hell are you doing?” I screamed on top of my voice.
“What happened?” he was angry at my accusation.
“Where will the pedestrians cross?”
“Who?” he asked.
“Pedestrians” I screamed again.
“They will find their way. Don’t worry” he shut the helmets shield and focused on the decreasing numbers on the signal.
Even before the numbers died down to zero, Eddie uncle and almost the front row specialists zoomed towards the junction. We passed the signal when it was red. Eddie uncle even swore at the traffic inspector and honked at a couple of pedestrians who were neither bothered about the crazy honking nor at the oncoming vehicles towards them.
“Uncle. What did you just do? You jumped the red light?” I yelled at the old man.
“Be practical Anil. Do you want to stay at that signal all day? I know you are on a vacation, but I have work to do. I have to drop you home, go to the fish market and buy some good fish, before others get there and increase the rates”.
I reached home, had a nice shower to wash away the traffic fines.
As I came out of the house, Eddie uncle just whizzed past with his head tilted a bit to the left. I realized he was on the phone.
After a good half hour, he came over to our house.
“Eddie uncle, do you know what I just realized about the traffic system in India”. Before I could continue, he replied.
“Yeah. I know. You think we are all wrong in not following the system religiously like the way we follow our actual religious rituals. You are right. I also know that you would want driving schools to emphasize more on traffic rules, the importance of following and obeying them. I also know that you would not want people to pay bribes to the inspectors. I also know that you think we should install cameras, radars and other gadgets to modernize the system. All this said Anil; do you think people like us will get any better? What possibly can happen if I alone change?”
I was shocked at the last few words of Eddie uncle. “Uncle….”. Words failed me.
He smiled. “You know the only possible solution to this grave traffic problem in India is to have priests, pandits, swamis and mullahs man the traffic junctions. These are the only people to whom we listen”. He had a naughty smile written all over his face.
I smiled.“Now teach me how to slide that phone inside the helmet. I am here for a few days. I will have to know this to survive here”
We both ended up laughing.