Monday, May 21, 2012

Traffic Karma



Friday evening is traffic jam time. Three of us were driving back from the office, taking our usual shortcut, but we realized there was a huge traffic pile up. So, we turned around to go via the main road, but found ourselves stuck at a junction. As we waited patiently for the traffic to move again, I noticed in my rear view mirror a taxi speeding down the wrong way. He would go up ahead and try to squeeze into some non-existent open space, thereby creating a greater jam.

I rolled down my window and stuck my hand out in a questioning gesture, asking “Where are you going?” I expected him to simply ignore me and continue on, but instead, to my surprise, he stopped beside my car (still staying on the wrong side) and began yelling at me. “Who do you think you are to show me your hand? What right do you have?” Then, he got down from his car and advanced menacingly up to my window, still yelling and hurling abuses at me in Kannada. I simply repeated my questions to him in English. Neither of us spoke the other’s language. Then, he got back in his car with some parting abuses and sped off.

The three of us bemoaned the disintegration of civil society and quietly fumed at the state of human decency and Bangalore traffic. The serpentine queue of cars inched forward. But our karma was yet to complete its circle.

A few minutes later, the taxi driver returned with three burly people. They all had mustaches, wore a lot of gold around their wrists and necks, and looked quite dangerous. I thought the driver had brought some friends of his and I couldn’t believe he was escalating the matter. They tapped on my window and after some hesitancy, I lowered it. The most authoritative of the bunch was asking the driver, “Is this the car? Is this the guy?” Then, he turns to me and says, “What was he telling you? Did he abuse you?” We repeated the abuses the driver had given us a few minutes earlier. The authoritative guy then turned to the driver and started scolding him, “Who do you think you are? Some big rowdy? This guy is telling you to do the right thing; how dare you shout at him?” And the three big, burly guys led the taxi driver away, who now looked very sorry indeed.

The three of us sat in our car in stunned silence. We had never expected retribution for the driver to arrive so swiftly. Karma is usually a long-drawn affair where patience is required. I guess with Bangalore traffic, it’s more a case of Car-ma.

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