Monday, April 18, 2011

Delhi and Mumbai : a tale of two cities (2)

To continue my earlier blog on the same subject...

The traffic of the two cities are also quite different. In fact, both the cities have left hand drive is just about the only thing that seem to be common. 

Mumbai (or Bombay; I still prefer the old name) has a highly organised and disciplined traffic. At least it honestly tries to be. It has a strict lane discipline imposed on it and over the years, the same has largely been internalized by the drivers. Cutting a lane, is, therefore, considered a greater sin that cutting a throat (in certain parts of the city, the latter is likely to win you kudos and cheers). While this is quite an appreciable achievement, the effectiveness of this is often subdued by lack of adequate street signs and directions. One is, thus, often stuck in the right most lane and is forced to take a right turn despite it being the wrong turn (right is sometimes wrong, you see). It is impossible for someone to guess where the correct right turn is from a distance unless one has spent good part of his formative years munching "vada-pav" in that particular area.  

Delhi has been wrongly accused of having no traffic rules or sense. This is, of course, purposefully maligning the city which has developed a completely unique traffic sense. Best is to list them down :
1) The bigger car has the right of the way.
2) Left is the overtaking lane and is also the fastest lane.
3) Right is definitely the slowest lane. 
4) Being on a lane does not mean you have to follow it all the time.
5) It is a perfectly acceptable practice to drive between two lanes. In certain parts of the city, this is the only way.
6) If you need to cut the lane, do so boldly and blindly. Close your eyes, take your favorite god's name and just do it!! You would momentarily feel like passing through hyper space or like the Star-Trek opening lines " boldly go where no man has gone before"
7) You can commit the gravest of the mistakes and then smile sweetly and get away by saying "Kindly adjust ("adjust" to be pronounced as "edjust") . If you can prefix the same with an "Oye Paaji", you have really done it. Balle balle to you and whoever is in the car with you.

As you would realize, this peculiar school of driving can only succeed if people possess a certain outlook towards life. You need a kind of benign forgiveness and a smiling pool of complacency to take this in your stride. No wonder people of Delhi are generally more happy-go-lucky and likely to crack some inane jokes at the first instance. If you constantly live in a world which seems like a Govinda movie, you tend to push yourself into a rarefied stratosphere where commonplace things like a dent on the right fender or a scratch on the left rear wheelcap has little or no significance.   

This brings up another aspect of life - humour. Mumbai, in general, is a humourless city. People are non-interfering and detached and usually maintain a self-complete (or should I call it self-sufficient) cheerfulness within them. It is not unusual to find people walking the malls, completely alone but not feeling lonely at all. Compared to this, Delhi has an all-embracing sense of humour, which, in its all putrid form, is forced upon you. It is impossible to ignore this, impossible to appreciate this and yet impossible to get angry with these simplistic people who belt out such mawkish jokes at the drop of a hat. 

To give you an example :
I went to a small general purpose shop looking for a bottle of jam for my daughter. This shop was devoid of this. The shopkeeper, instead of saying that he doesn't have it, quipped "Jam nehi hay sahab, lekin Jams hay" (Jams - in case you are still wondering, refers to the Cadbury Gems which is popular amongst children).  In case you are wondering - no I didn't reach for my Kalashnikov and make a clean job of the shop keeper. I just smiled and moved on.

So, most of the bollywood humours are, in fact, more suitable in Delhi than Mumbai and so are the bollywood dialogs. Thus, the "Virar ka chokra" brand of humour is more a "Janakpuri Ishtyle" than a Bombaiya brand. It also tends to grow on you and after a while, you start enjoying the utter ridiculousness and the existentialistic absurdity of the same. 

All Izzz Well for the time being. And yours truly shall be back with another round of introspection after a while. Till then, Sionara!!


  1. nice one. and quiet understandable to me because i know, if u were in mumbai u would not have got time for exploring ur writing talent which u have got after shifting to delhi... keep it up

    - Abhijit Gadade

  2. true..mumbai gives no time to introspect..but somehow i feel that it is my soul gave me the strength to choose my own way and helped me to disconnect with false pretenses and other similar negative things..though it is also true that am enjoying delhi no less, esp the weather out here..after many years am seeing all the season in their true colours....

  3. nice to read your blog.. liked it.

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