Pedestrians are at the bottom of the pecking order of Indian roads. They are a group to be honked at, splashed with dirty rainwater, and given nasty looks for having the temerity to cross the road when there a motorised vehicle within a one-kilometre radius. And of course, pavements for pedestrians are a waste of space. In short, pedestrians should not be allowed to exist.
This being the prevailing view of Indian drivers, pedestrians have had to learn to be good sprinters, scooting across busy intersections in short bursts of speed interspersed with zen-like moments of no movement. Even when there is a pedestrian light or a pedestrian crossing, no vehicle stops to let the pedestrian through. More often than not vehicles come to a stop on the pedestrian crossing and inch forward even before the light turns green. So the pedestrian’s only hope is safety in numbers.
Outside Chennai’s main railway station, Central, the sheer mass of pedestrians forces the traffic to a halt. It does not matter who has the green, once the pedestrians coming in and out of the railway station reach critical mass there is no stopping them.
I love that!
Courtesy: PlaneMad (Wikimedia Commons)
Unfortunately, my 1.5 km walk home from work is not as easy. I have to cross one particularly busy road. Whether I use the pedestrian crossing or not it takes a good 5 minutes to get across. Buses, cars, and two-wheelers tend to speed up on spotting us pedestrians.
Twice, as I was waiting to cross at this road along with several other people, I have been pleasantly surprised to find a MTC bus (local public transport) that slowed down and stopped! Thanks to these two bus drivers, we were able to force the rest of the traffic to halt as well. In one instance, not only did the bus driver wait patiently, he noticed a few more pedestrians scurrying to take advantage of this pleasant break in traffic madness and waited till everyone crossed! The last person crossing was an elderly man who took a little while to clamber onto the centre median and all the while the bus driver just watched. He did not honk, he did not rev up his engine. He just waited patiently.
I only wish more drivers, be they bus drivers or of other vehicles, were so considerate. A shout out, then, is due to the MTC (Chennai) drivers of Route 47 (bus registration no: TN 01 N4303) and Route 521H (TN 04 9329). May their tribe increase!