Utter traffic chaos, innovative means employed by law-enforcers, parking woes, an ongoing drive to curb unlawful driving practices — all this reminds me of our days of the late ’70s.
Cars were rare, scooters were common, and motorbikes a rage. Traffic on Chandigarh’s wide roads was scarce and there were hardly any traffic lights. Roundabouts were the only regulatory means, and quite effective at that.
Hence, the routine traffic cop (‘mama’) was reasonably under-employed. The primary charter was of hauling up errant youngsters for helmetless/licenceless driving. Other umpteen, present-day infringements had not yet made an appearance.
We were as adventurous — if not more — as present-day youngsters. Wearing helmets was cumbersome and highly unfashionable — useless baggage to be utilised in the face of the ‘enemy’, the dreaded cop! Possession of a driving licence and other relevant documents was ego-hurting; triple/fipple-riding was the norm; and speeding was seen as an indirect approval of Le Corbusier’s skills, a nod to the wide and beautiful roads disproportionate to the traffic density of the time. Evading cops was easy as we could spot them from a distance. Dividers were absent, so evasive detours were easier.
Bike racing was a common sport on the popular Sukhna stretch; and since noise pollution was an alien concept, removal of exhaust mufflers was simply exhilarating. Paid parking lots did not exist even on the horizon. The only traffic congestion, a colourful one, was noticed on the good old Geri Route during peak ‘academic’ hours.
Things have changed. There are traffic lights after each lap; increased presence of the ‘white-uniformed terror’; barricades; surveillance devices; and, of course, the media! The cat-and-mouse game goes on. My heart goes out to the carefree humans behind the wheel.
Jokes aside, it saddens me more when precious young lives are lost in road mishaps. The era of traffic tranquility is history. Safety on roads is as much our responsibility as that of the cops. Life is too precious to waste in exchange of momentary exhilaration.
(Views expressed are personal)