Sunday, April 26, 2020

Stuck in Traffic

Sneha’s prompt:
-- 500 words
-- "Stuck in traffic" - Interpret as you will
In what feels like several lifetimes ago, the eternally broke spouse and I splurged on tickets to a concert by Lobo. Yes, the same person who gave us Me and You and a Dog Named Boo, and Baby, I’d Love you to Want me, A Simple Man, and so many more. We were fans. We lived in a small industrial township near Ang Thong, about an hour and a half away from Bangkok, where the concert was being held. This was back in late 1979 or the early nineteen eighties. I do not remember what he sang, and whether or not I was pregnant at the time, and if not, what had I done with the infant son for that evening. What I do distinctly remember is his crack about the infamous Bangkok traffic: it was supposed to be the only thing that could prevent the Vietcong army from invading Thailand. (The war was over by then, incidentally).
And then, when I watch movies like the fabulous original Golmaal, the absolutely crazy car chase towards the end, and I wonder at there being such a time, when cars ran freely on the road, unfettered by others of their ilk.
There was this unforgettable cartoon of a road full of cars, unmoving, with space for one single car. A helicopter is about to drop a car into that space. The End.
I do not drive. (Not any longer, barring a very brief period in my life when I did.) City distances are measured by time taken. You have a general idea of how long a particular journey will take at a particular time of day. Getting to the airport, a moderate distance of thirty-odd kilometers, can take anything from forty minutes to an hour and forty minutes. You keep that in mind while planning your journey. If you are like me, you drink a quarter of a cup of tea to wake up with, and a tiny sip of water with your post-breakfast medication, just so that you do not die of loo desperation before you reach your destination. Have you been in the awkward position of charging straight to your host’s facilities even before you can say a proper hello? I often have. My only comfort is that most other women feel my pain. Especially when you live in the National Capital Region, and often drive in three states to reach your destination.
Before smart phones became ubiquitous, I would read books at traffic lights and traffic jams. I managed to read a lot.
Before Covid and lockdowns came and put an end to traffic, traffic had, in Delhi, become a deeply political issue. The anti-CAB protests at Shaheen Bagh involved the closure of one of the major roads between Delhi and Noida. Whatever we felt about the protests, and given that the NCR had horrendous traffic at the best of times, it often felt simpler to just stay home.
Stay home, stay safe, and beat the traffic as well.
P.S. : The spouse clarifies, the baby attended the concert with us.

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