This is the lane which leads to the Wadi where I live, in many ways still has old world charm. In many ways it is a dinosaur land with average people living are mostly old. Many of us in this neighbourhood are adults who live with our parents, while some families keep getting bigger, many like mine are shrinking. But the number of Vehicles in this neighbourhood can easily outnumber the normal rational types. In fact I haven’t yet uploaded the Cross Lane photos which will show how there is a quiet, serene feel to this whole picture. A childhood friend and Me have adopted a small patch and converted it into a green zone with pink and yellow flowers that flowers that are a welcoming a sight.
Once you are way inside my building, it is quiet and soothing. However, to get in here, it is one challenging task. This lane has a very Dr Jekyll Mr. Hyde schizophrenic look, it is a horror living during the day. As one can see, right at the entry with Cafe De La Paix to one’s left there is a No Parking board. And you bet, a BMW is parked right at the mouth of the eatery on the turning. So already the driver/owner has flouted three traffic rules.
Now I haven’t mentioned few crucial elements of this lane, where I live. It is a one way lane, the head quarters of auto spare parts market and most of all the haftas to traffic police and I am sure even Mumbai police amount to few lakhs per day. The spare parts shopkeepers live with an air of arrogance, which is basically – go and complaint to the police, let us see which policeman has the balls to tow our cars parked on the wrong side.
Now the films that were banned would be strewn along the pavement, most rip apart the cars parked in the second lane, which is breaking traffic rule, but all of this is about adhering to laws as compared to the amount of money made on a daily basis and the bribes sent to the Mumbai traffic police for ensuring NO action is taken.
Till now I have fought, and you have no idea when I mean fights except for getting violent, they ventured on anger, explicit and eventually one uncle shopkeeper telling me to take it easy else one of the shopkeepers may bump me off. That was years ago. Then another uncle told me “How many people you will tell? Now people living in your own neighbourhood are flouting the rules and breaking the one-way law.” It was a like a slap in my face and actually one night when my sister, mother and I were returning from a dinner later night, our next door neighbour had the gall to look at us while we tried to veer away his on coming car, that was in the wrong direction! Shameless is to say the least. Since that day I look down on him and treat him like a second class citizen. Interestingly, his son studied in US and doesn’t prevent his father from breaking law.
Sadly, owning a vehicle is a huge status symbol in India since many years now. So according to this belief I am a loser and highly unsuccessful. I dreamt of being chauffeur driven and thanks to Uber and Ola, this cream is a reality. Firstly, our family has been staunch supporter of public transport and I still continue holding that flag. Secondly, I am staunchly against multi tasking, especially when demanded by employers, because it basically means they are short changing you for cheap wages. Moreover, I also believe not all are born to do all things or should even waste their time doing so. Like cooking everyday, driving, so on and so forth. There is more to life and there are people with those skills who should be doing that and are paid accordingly. Lastly, when parking is free, nobody should even murmur or fight about spaces as if its their birth right. Come and see how my neighbours like cheapskates over some person taking over their parking space. Wow, when all of it is free. In fact one even tresspasses into another’s compound with a fleet of cars, but all has been tolerated.
So over a period of time the neighbours who realised they want to benefit from this situation have begun not protesting. They don’t argue with the shopkeepers or bring it to their notice that the cars parked along the wrong side is a violation of a Road Transport Act. They do not foresee it being a problem for anyone. Now even in the cross lane at our building gate, one arrogant young man has fought with me when I have demanded he shift his two-wheeler from the gate, as it obstructs my way. I am baffled at the way the officials turn a blind eye to all these violations.
Once the traffic police would come to our lane and tow away cars. Now somehow the police have conveniently made a policy of towing away only scooters or motorcycles, NOT cars. I have had issues with traffic police who come to my lane stand mutely and when I have brought the wrong parking or breaking of one-way rules, they have snapped at me and demanded a written complaint from me. This has become a joke in my life. So all these years it was write a letter, go and complaint to the seniors were the rude replies by cops. While spare parts shop keepers could not be bothered since their defence is our own neighbourhood residents break traffic laws.
As a result, I began using the social media platforms. First on Facebook, Sandeep Ohri started mumbaitrafficviolations page and i would upload pics with addresses. Later, I began using Twitter, then the WA number of Mumbai Traffic. All of it has failed. I get mandatory robotic replies. TO begin with – please give/share exact location and address. If I say Awantikabai Gokhale Lane, in town, they don’t take the effort to find or google it! Joke because the maps show it. Funnily, the Uber app and most maps do NOT show it as a one way, which invariably creates an issue for me to take uber from inside my lane.
After every complaint with photo and write up on WA, I am given a formal reply that says my complaint has been forwarded to a police station, a day later that station acknowledges, but I have NOT seen any concrete action of clean-up drive. My lane is still congested and difficult to pass through at normal working hours. No amount of influence, my experience as a senior journalist has helped in making life easy to live here, this I see as the biggest failure of my profession. An absolute indicator that if rules are being allowed to be broken then there is little hope we are offering the world.