This is India, my friend (Part 1)

I love it when they say This is India, my friend. But I also hate it when they say This is India, my friend. Actually, there is a difference.

The first type

If you visit Chandni Chowk on any busy day, you’ll see the narrow streets jam-packed with the usual traffic hustle. You cannot help it really, the lanes are pretty narrow with shops all around. Even on the main street (infront of the Red Fort), almost half of the road is covered by parked cars and shopkeepers waiting with the goods to be delivered probably from one shop to another. And there are either rickshaw pullers or labourers ready to carry the goods. You will find dedicated wholesale markets there for various types: Books, printing (for cards, calendars, etc.) and other things. There is infact, a wholesale market for Auto parts as well if you go further towards Jama Masjid. There I was one day, standing in the midst of all the hush-hush.

The lanes are so narrow that if for any reason a vehicle or two stop in the middle, get ready for some heavy traffic jam. Chaos. Utter. Deadly. It would not be hard to visualize that for you once you go there. Now, take one instance: This one for a normal city road. You are on your way to some place and suddenly there is a minor accident. Minor, mind it. A cab driver could not keep control on the accelerator and hit another car from behind. Just imagine the scene. Chaos isn’t it? Cab driver and the other person getting into a fight to determine who’s fault was it. Since its a normal city road, there will not be much difficulty for the rest of the traffic. It will still get through.

Now just shift this scene from a normal, relatively wider city road to any lane in Chandni Chowk (no, not the Paranthe waali gali like markets 🙂 ). Sigh. I could imagine cars and bikes waiting in the jam just like people standing in line outside a movie hall to buy tickets. I wondered what if something like that actually happened there. Since I was there I just hoped that day to be my lucky one. And my wish was granted! Apparently, an old Maruti drove past by a Santro a little too closely, and bumped the other one sideways, thus making a dent on one of the doors. A sardarji was driving the Santro. At first, they both stopped right in the middle of the street and had some word. But after all the honking from behind, they both parked their cars on one side of the street, still blocking a small part of the road, and sardarji went straight to the car’s driver to have some word. I seriously thought that had I wished for anything else back then, it would have been granted as well.

But instead of a heated argument (and probably some quick punches and cuss words), sardarji asked the driver, a young guy in his early 20s, to come and see what he had done to his Santro. Even though I was standing right infront of his car, I could hardly hear anything because of the traffic noise. But I could make out that he was simply complaining about the dent. As much as I could hear, sardarji simply told him something like – “Ek to rickshaw bachane ke chakkar mein…*something*…upar se gaddi di maa aur c**d di”. Ok. Fine. I thought that he will not let him get away with this easily and would ask for some money for the repair work. After all, sardarji’s wife was in the car too and it was the door on her side the other car bumped into.

Instead, sardarji simply sat in his dented car and drove away.

Sardarji could have blatantly blamed the other driver and said a few kind words about his mother and sister, which would have eventually resulted in a petty fight. Or he could have done what he did. Now, I have heard incidents where a bunch of guys beat the shit out of a truck driver simply because he was driving at a constant speed in a single lane and not letting them overtake the truck (You can get and idea of what I am talking about by seeing this). I have even seen people quarrel in similar situations as the above one, even though there is no major damage done to their vehicles (something like this). It may have been that this was just an exception and obviously there were a number of incidents like this that I do not witness and must be happening. Still, I thought that Chandni Chowk being a busy area, should not incidents like the one above occur more frequently?

May be they do happen. On another visit, I saw a scooter’s side stand hitting a rickshaw and getting stuck with one of rickshaw’s rear tires (lucky again?). A common scene there. But instead of even saying something to each other, they both tried removing their vehicles away, saw if there was any visible damage, and went on as usual. Not a single word. This can be expected as its an incident that happens there pretty often, but atleast they understood what is important, even if unconsciously. They knew that if they had stopped or created some scene, it would have been problematic for others. Sure there may be differences and issues among each other, but they often put those issues behind to focus on more important things. “Nice”, I said to myself.

Well, I got out of the Chandni Chowk metro station and headed straight to the main market passing by the temple where a large no. of people had gathered, went into the main market and saw a sardarji tell the other guy how he (that guy) had fucked up his car, stood for about half an hour infront of the Gurudwara to catch a rickshaw to Fatehpuri Masjid, travelled in a shared rickshaw (not an auto-rickshaw, mind you) with someone I don’t know for the first time, had an awesome Rabri Faluda in Fatehpuri and then an awesome tea near Jama Masjid, and did not realize about all this till now. I am yet to eat a Parantha in the Paranthe waali gali and have some spicy chaat at Nataraj, and I am already planning to go there again. Its such a happening place. A foreign tourist passed me by near Jama Masjid. “Click all you can dear”, I thought, as if telling him, “This, is India!”.

Read the second part here.

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