It was a bolt from the blue. A sheet of rain accompanied by a squall brought much needed respite to the heat-afflicted Delhites. The dark clouds seemed to bring with them a sense of elation in the office, as we all rushed out to see the drops surge down. “It’s so cool and pleasant”, said someone. Cool yes, but pleasant maybe not, thought I as my mind wandered to the possible traffic snarls I was likely to meet on the way back home. Little did I know what was in store on Friday night!
At 7 pm, Noida to Vasant Vihar, seemed like a 20 kilometers distance; by 7:10 pm the distance seemed never ending. Choked at the Noida flyover itself, we endured till the end of the toll road from where we decided to abandon the Inner Ring Road and took a detour via Pragati Maidan-Old Fort. As we drove over the Ring Road bridge, I saw a million blinking lights and thought to myself about how this mass of humanity would ever reach home?
It was just the beginning of what was to be a harrowing journey for me as well. Every lane, crossing and even diversion was jammed with unending queues of cars, auto-rickshaws, cycles, motorbikes and even hand-carts. Water was gushing above ground level at several places and uprooted trees or branches littered every street. The resultant blockages and our habitual tendency to break traffic rules spelt only one thing – Chaos!
The line of vehicles on the Khan market road was so long that we diverted again to take Gandhi Smriti passageway. The sight was similar there as well; and we decided to try our luck one more time by changing path and going via Teen Murti. It was 8: 20 pm already. I called home to say that I was near Rashtrapati Bhawan.
That was it. Teen Murti was even worse. Perhaps worst. Next to the sprawling presidential palace there was such mayhem that people just decided to switch off their cars and stay put. We tried an inner lane close to MP Flats; we beat the queue by a kilometere or so when we realized that we were just not so smart. An uprooted tree had blocked the road. We and a few others, who were trying to get too clever had to take a U-turn and returned where we had started! An hour later I get a query from home: Where are you? By now you know the answer: Rashtrapati Bhawan!
Meanwhile, tired of sitting in their cars, some commuters started coming out to stretch their legs. Most were yapping on their cell phones. I remember seeing a foreigner, who was clearly a captain of some airline. He was standing next to his cab with the most unbelieving expression on his face. I can bet my life’s earnings, he must have missed his flight. The IGI was a lifetime away. Whatever would have happened to his passengers!
As the clocked ticked away I had ample time to muse. I thought about the article I had written describing the beauty of the rain. It just seemed like such an irony at that moment. I kept comparing us to China. The tiger runs, the elephant always only rambles on. Spot on.
I thought about the environmental impact of such gargantuan congestion. How many tonnes of fuel would have blown away for nothing at all. Plus how many man hours lost. How smart I was about planning my eventual retirement in a non-descript hill town rather than this mega-maniac jungle.
Then I remembered another colleague’s blog about how she had travelled on a hand cart and had thought of making her umbrella a boat on another such showery day. And what a gala time she had!!
As for me, I had just had it. By the way things looked, I started thinking of alternatives. Were there any relatives who lived close by or some hotel? No was the answer, unless the President was in a mood of obliging hapless citizens.
Mr Chauffer was not someone who could be so easily bogged down. He kept encouraging me to leave aside such thoughts as he was determined to deliver me home, even if it meant another 3-4 hours on this jam-packed road. A colleague who was sending me empathetic messages like “Oh!No”, “How Terrible”, “But Meira Kumar is also stuck”, “Congress HQ is also in disarray” provided comfort in those cold hours. If Rahul Gandhi had to take the Metro to travel, then what of mere mortals like us!
Just as I was beginning to give up, Mr Chauffer had a brainwave: Let’s turn back and give one final try and take the Bangla Sahib road. If the roads are less clogged, we go straight home. Else we take a dinner break at Bangla Sweets, and crawl back for another few hours.
Left with no choice, we decided to give it a shot. Hallelujah! God had listened and the traffic was flowing. We sped ahead as fast as possible, skipped the Dak Khana, took the Shankar Road and straight on to the Ridge. But alas, another jam! After a series of frustrating stoppages, we turned left for Malcha Marg as going to Dhaula Kuan would have been foolish. One last jam and we flew home through the embassies.
11 pm. Home Sweet Home, at last. Still in a stupor that I was actually back home, I thought that I had just spent good 4 hours on the roads.
Had I been in the US, in four hours time, I would have traveled inter-city through the beautiful Redwood forest, in London I could have gone up to Kent for a picnic and been back as well, I could have finished seeing masterpieces at Louvre Museum in France and the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican near Rome.
Not less interesting would have been spending time at Shimla, thumbing through Jaswant Singh’s Jinnah book or whiling away time on a hammock in Goa. But if all over again, I were in Delhi, and rain gods would be kind, I have no doubt that I would be having one whale of time again, just jamming!