J jostles JAYWALKERS
Just to set the record straight, a Jaywalker is nowhere related to Johnnie Walker. In fact, it is a term attributed to those who love to walk, into oncoming traffic and sorts. We were taught as kids, that you cross a street when you see the green walk sign only. I actually experienced this only on my first trip to Dubai in 2001. The discipline when it came to motorists respecting pedestrians was intimidating. The pedestrians in return avoided cutting through intersections, even if there wasn’t a vehicle in sight. Big Brother was watching on the cameras. And, the fines were quite a hole in the pocket. I was told, universally, this was the norm. Jaywalking was a serious offence.
Cut to, back home. Cows in the middle of the street, bikes on pavements and vehicles too close to comfort. Everyone, jostling for an inch of space, to move in whichever direction an opening shows up. Welcome to India where jaywalking is an art. As Shakespeare once said, “The whole world is a garden and we all are bees”. So also, out here, you buzz and you learn.
Crossing the street takes courage. First, you check all the traffic that has added to the chaos on the street. You select a vehicle that is way off the radar. You know he will notice you. Next, make eye contact and show him your hand signalling him to slow down. Well, he has the brakes, you don’t. And if he does, great. You breeze past. If not, you hastily cross, muttering the choicest expletives under your breath. Congratulations, you are a level one Jaywalker. Level two is a tad bit tricky. Try doing the same, whilst on the phone. Chatting is passe, texting is thrilling. Of course, you have the usual hurdles of bridges, subways, zebra crossings et al. Do away with them. What is the point if you ain’t living on the edge?
The disciplinary force have tried to channelize their energies towards creating better citizens. They fined a couple of this gay tribe to inculcate caution. As a result, the college students handed them their books, which they rarely used. The ladies left them with their shopping baskets of groceries. While the men simply gave them ‘You think I do this by choice?’ look. Since they could not manage to break even with the bribes, this sector has been languishing in doldrums. On condition of anonymity, a veteran disciplinarian said, “People are way too adventurous out here. Nothing deters them. A stray case of hit and run, they are back to business the next day. Their never-say-die spirit is commendable.” So, bottom line, if you survive the streets out here, you can conquer the altitudes of Everest. Keep on walking!