(Note: I wrote this piece last New Year, that is Jan 1st 2007. It was said by knowledgeable sources (namely me) that there were more trenches in Mumbai in 2007 that in all of Europe during World War II. Since that time, most of the trenches have been filled up and levelled. But the traffic is still snarling. Behind my house runs an arterial road where they play what I call "The Horn Concerto" in various keys. This is in several movements and features about 5 hours of virtuoso honking every evening. It is often supported by improptu poets who disembark from their vehicles and narrate instantly composed odes to the parentage of other people).
They are at it again, the jokers at the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai. They have opened up the road at the main junction to our house, this being the third time in as many years. And its not one of those small, lets-plant-a-bonsai-tree-in-it kind of hole. Its a holy-smoke-did-an-asteroid-land-here kind and at the moment of going to press, is the scene of a world record traffic jam that a woefully inadequate police force of one is trying to disentangle. We will wish him all the best and with the reflective smugness of one who went walking instead of taking his car, we shall analyze and introspect.
I am forever fascinated by the trouble and expense to which our honorable civic body is willing to go for no discernible reason other than seeing what color it is in there. I've seen it in all these excavations. The place is dug up real fast, all the mud piled up in large mounds along the road. Then everyone disappears for a while as if to allow their masterpiece to mature.
Meanwhile, the doofuses* that populate Mumbai go nuts trying to race everyone else around the crater and end up jamming the traffic something bad. That's a specialty of Mumbai's citizens. Just as nature abhors a vacuum, the Mumbai driver abhors a vacant space in the traffic, regardless of how small it is in relation to the vehicle he is driving. He has to occupy that gap. Now everyone else wedges in and the resultant impasse can be quite depressing. If you've GOT to go to the loo, for example, you're in trouble.
My grouse is, regardless of this scene being repeated everyday - and my description is no exaggeration, any Mumbaikar will bear me out - the Municipal Corporation just shrugs its shoulders, twiddles its thumbs and sits on its fat gluteus maximus**. And the public just grins and bears it. Everytime. Everyone can see the callous lack of planning and coordination. They will invariably dig up all parallel streets at the same time, for example, allowing no scope for charting out an alternative route. They will dig up the place and then wait for months before the pipes or cables that they wish to place in arrive. Sometimes, they get existential doubts and fill up the pit without doing anything till they get their supply of Prozac and dig it up again. I don't think anyone has every lost his job for dereliction of duty in the Municipality.*** In fact, George Mallory's famous quote (Why do you want to climb Everest? Because it is there) is actually inspired by Assistant Engineer Kamble's famous quote (Why do you want to dig that road? Because it is there)
Thus, life goes on as usual. Today is the 31st of December, and later at night, St. Vitus' patients will usher in the new year as defined by Pope Gregory XIII. A meaningless ritual given that it is not our New Year. To complicate things, there are three or four alternative calendars seriously followed in India, positing the existence of three or four New Years. What sets this one apart is the fact that this particular meaningless ritual is accompanied by the consumption of large quantities of the true, the blushful Hippocrene. Hmmm. Sounds like fun, actually. I think I'd like to take part in a meaningless ritual or two myself.
* - A doofus is the scientific name for a person with inadequate intellectual equipment. Currently, with the exception of you and me, includes everyone in the world.
** - A large muscle situate at the lower posterior of the human body. Sometimes erroneously referred to as the "ass", which is wrong. Every one knows that "ass"means "Member of Parliament"
***-Or, for that matter, any public enterprise or Government body in India