The ‘Millennium City’! The name alone outweighed other considerations for selection of the destination for settling down for the proclaimed quality of life and some vaguely defined accruals. And above this, the proximity to the childhood courtyard to meet and renew the old associations with colleagues of Delhi-6 vintage, seemed ‘the icing on the cake’. But the most exhilarating experience of the living in the town came in the form of an unusual adventure with usual frequency. The sport is popularly known as “the JAM”.
Traffic congestion is the hallmark of rapid and unplanned urbanization. As the urban centres are becoming much sought-after places for living, due to the amenities and opportunities they offer, the density of population there is swelling with alarming rate. Time and distance for commuting from one suburb to another for work, business or education is of lesser consequence than other considerations.
This tends to result in frequent and long traffic jams sometimes for hours together. The problem becomes more acute in wedding season. 45,000 weddings in a day in Delhi alone, wow! Average 100 cars per venue, perhaps. Vehicles parked in the middle of the road in haphazard manner. Had Frances Burnett witnessed the scene, she would have modified her observation “—– the whole NCR (world) is a parking lot (garden)”. Rain is another phenomenon which often test our fragile infrastructure every now and then. Streets get flooded at the sight of dark clouds. Vehicles negotiate water channels as if they are amphibians. Do they float or wade through water? Difficult to say. Thank God, Monsoon Weddings are not the norms, yet. The diversions, the detours and ‘closed for traffic’ signage are commonplace.
There can be two diametrically opposite effects it can have on commuters. One is due to habituation we get accustomed to it and find ways and means of coping with such situations. Some people listen to music, engage in social media interactions etc. Some kind of psychological toughening also takes place. Others simply sit, wait and probably curse the situation they are in.
An experience of this kind is worth sharing, wherein, for six hours the traffic did not move an inch. After initial jostling by drivers to outwit others and occupy a strategic point from where an escape was easier, the things settled down to a calm acceptance of the fait accompli. The temper also cooled down a bit probably to conserve energy to deal with the things to come. The vehicles were so tightly packed that there was no room even to open the car door(s). The cars were arrayed tail to head. On a three-lane road there were seven rows of vehicles.
Weather outside was mercilessly hot. Without air-conditioning, it was nothing less than a boiling cauldron in side. Small vehicles carry small quantity of fuel. Keeping an eye on the fuel gauge was as vital as monitoring oximeter in the ICU. The lunchbox and the water bottle never looked so precious prior to this. All body joints seemed to be frozen due to sitting in a cramped posture. Drivers of commercial vehicles appeared to be more comfortable with more leg space and elbow room; they were calmer and patient. Self-driven cars appeared to be a liability than a convenience.
Minutes turned into hours and a dreadful possibility of making it a day long strife loomed large. Different things came to mind. “Why you have to live in such a place? Why can’t you look for a “work from home” kind of job? Why you had to select this route? Who is responsible for the trouble? Some accident? A break-down? VIP movement? Road condition?
Cursing is self-limiting, perhaps self-defeating. One had to do some kind of ‘out of box thinking’ in that tiny ‘steel-box’, to regain sanity. PET is such strategy which can be practised and relied upon. An acronym for Patience, Endurance and Tolerance may be panacea for all kind of enervating situations, big and small. A strategy to deal with the instant situation and similar situations in future can be developed, practised and used.
Patience! Yes, patience. Have patience; one has to remind oneself with alacrity and conviction. Yes, patience pays, but when? Why it is taking so long for patience to pay, why can’t it be an instant deliverance of relief. Mind gets cluttered with ludicrous thoughts, wild thoughts. Why can’t we design a car with vertical take-off and landing? Will the agony continue? Will it circumvent eternity? No. It will run out of steam before the car run out of gasoline. Or so, we have to believe. It can’t match human resolve. Have patience; that too in adequate measures. It will end sooner than we think. Hope it will be soon. Nothing lasts forever.
Endurance! Human body can take a lot of none-sense, we learnt it in the age when life was more primitive. Human endurance is limitless. People have come out alive having spent 15 days under debris. What are couple of hours? Sitting on a cushy seat in upright position, with access to some life sustaining means at hand, still in communication with people who matter! ‘What cannot be cured must be endured’, a cliché! Isn’t it? Yes, but the wise one. Develop the stamina, strength and suppleness of mind, body and spirit. This is the need of the hour.
Tolerance! Murphy knew it. So, he affirmed that ‘if anything that can go wrong, it will’. Can you prevent such things? Do we have control over everything. No! Tolerance is one of the greatest virtues, we were told. We have to tolerate many abominable behaviours, obnoxious personalities and ambiguous situations. Tolerance for ambiguity is a trait of highly evolved people. Let us try to be like them.
Can the strategy be generalised and used on some other ‘auspicious’ occasions. Off course, it can be. An investiture ceremony where one had to clap for the anonymous beneficiaries, in a rhythmic manner like a robot, for no rhyme and reason and for no apparent perquisite. It can also be handy for the occasion when a remotely related fellow human insists to make up for the lost time and comes home to have tete- a tete with no time constraints. It is especially true for people who get the whiff of your fresh replenishment of liquor stock. You can also conjure up a situation; when you are own bride’s side and waiting for the marriage party to oblige you by joining the ceremony within ‘muhurat’ hour, they being on steroid and determined to perform all dance-forms known and unknown to them. The strategy is tailor-made for the occasion and effective as well.