Today, I spent nearly six hours in the Hell that defines Bangalore traffic. Six hours.
It took me 3 hours to travel the distance of 27 kms from my home in south Bangalore to a spot in east Bangalore. It took me the same amount of time to get back home. You don’t even have to be good at Math to figure out how ridiculous that sounds.
I moved to this city in the summer of ’96. It was a brand new city for the 18-year-old me who was excited about college and exploring the garden capital of India. I fell in love with the weather here. I learnt to ride my scooter in this city, zipping through narrow lanes and wide roads in relatively traffic-free zones.
Love found me in this city. So did motherhood. Wonderful moments with family and friends fill my memories as I look back over the last 20 years in this place I call home.
Today, none of that mattered, as I sat fuming in a cab that literally inched its way through the nightmarish mess that was traffic. Both to and from the destination, the combined travel time added up to 6 hours and I shelled out more than a 1000/- on cab fare plus toll fees. In what universe does this sound logical?
People have asked me why I don’t opt for most events, lunches, meetings and conferences. Those living outside the city have remarked that I am lucky to stay in the same city as my parents since I can ‘see them any time’. Friends have wondered why I prefer not to attend lunches and brunches on weekdays or Saturdays. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you- Bangalore traffic.
Infrastructure that’s laughable
Our infrastructure is beyond pathetic. Our roads are literally falling apart after just one night of heavy rainfall. Pothole-ridden roads are more the norm than the exception. Narrow by-lanes are used by heavy trucks and tractors and make them non-motorable.
Public transport concerns
The Metro rail has very poor connectivity across the city. It works in small pockets here and there but doesn’t provide an overall solution. The Volvo buses are wonderful but where is the space on the roads for them? Ola and Uber cabs are ideal but today’s experience has made me wonder if I need to set aside a savings fund exclusively for travel within the city and that’s just sad, when you think about it.
Traffic sense? Clearly, that’s just a term for people not living in the city. Nobody sticks to lanes. Pretty much everyone is in a tearing hurry all the time. Flaring tempers, raised voices, bumpers touching and rash drivers are enough to make you want to stay home. Forever.
I work from home and today, that seems like the most sane decision ever. But it shouldn’t have to be! Not everyone can work from home. It doesn’t make practical sense. So we have people commuting 3 hours one way to get to work and spend 8 hours there and then spend another 3 hours to get back home. What kind of a life is this?
And it’s not just me thinking this way. People close to me have been frustrated with the traffic conditions and opted to live closer to work and away from their families, just to beat the traffic. I thought it was a one-off thing but turns out there are many families in the city doing this. It’s the only sensible thing, given the circumstances.
The other option is large gated communities where we have everything from schools to offices to malls and multiplexes within walking distance. But, that still doesn’t mean that we’d escape traffic. I agree that we are part of the problem but what is the solution?
Right now, the only thing this city has going for it is the weather. That may not be enough though, a few years from now, to keep people here.
You want to know the best part? Google told me I could have walked the entire 27 kms today in 5 hours and 25 minutes. I should have done that and saved 35 minutes off my day.