March 2, 2014
I met Eddie uncle for the first time after my wedding and I must say it was an unusual Eddie uncle I met that day. He was obviously at his witty best, but there was something visibly wrong with him.
"What happened uncle? You look like a wet crow drenched in rain."
"Haa Anil. You sound happy and why not, you just got married. Give it some time." He crowed right back at me. This is why I always try speaking safe with him. You never know what to expect of this old man. The older he grows, the wittier he gets.
For a minute, I was stumped and speechless. Gathering my thoughts, I asked him earnestly, "Won’t you tell your good friend what is bothering you?"
"Do you think I will?"
"Of course you will. Won't you?" I too played along. He hopped onto my scooter and we whizzed to the town centre. He had some work at the traffic police station.
"How could he do this to me?"
"Who did what?"
"That damn traffic inspector. How could he do this to such a good person like me."
"Ahh ahh. Wait there. What makes you think you are such a good person, huh?" I asked him.
"Well, I go to church every day, donate money to the church, attend Sunday mass etc."
I was pleasantly surprised at this answer. "Well, God has a tough time up there in heaven. Now tell me what the inspector did."
"He charged me for driving on the service road in front of Parijatha."
"Uncle. You are not supposed to drive on the service road in front of Parijatha and moreover it is a one way. He is right in charging you."
"Whatever. He is wrong. He should not have charged me."
"Uncle, you should have done an out of system settlement. You should have slipped a 100 rupee note into his pocket. After all, he too is a good man like you." I mocked Eddie Uncle and he didn’t like it a bit.
"You idiot. Why can’t you for once, support me, instead of taking a stand for that unknown inspector?" Eddie uncle’s age was hindering his thoughts.
"Well Uncle. I haven’t seen him and moreover you too admitted that you were driving on the wrong side of the road. That is the only reason why I don’t support you. I believe in supporting the right people."
"You come tomorrow and I will show you the people whom you support and how mean they are." I dropped Eddie uncle and went to this small shop which serves amazing biryani at the heart of the town centre.
The next day, Eddie uncle was at my door step even before I was awake. I could hear mom and him speaking. I got ready and hopped on to his scooter wondering where the old man is going to take me today. As promised Eddie Uncle took me to show me the so called atrocities of the traffic police.
We stopped at a chaotic signal, it was absolutely chaos. There was a dark man with white uniform sitting inside the cozy circular throne, with a nice, but small roof over his head. He had an Iphone 5S and was busy doing something on it. I presumed he was playing angry birds.
"What the hell is he doing? The traffic is so chaotic, but this man is doing nothing." I vented my anger towards Eddie uncle from the pillion.
"Haaaa. Now you seem to understand a little about the people you support. Good." Eddie uncle mocked at me by looking at the rear view mirror.
We passed the signal when it was red. Eddie uncle even sweared at the traffic inspector and honked at a couple of pedestrians who were bothered neither about the crazy honking nor the inspector at the centre.
They went on their way, some thinking about the quarrels back home, some thinking about the boss who would sit on their head in sometime and some more were bothered about what to eat in the afternoon.
Anyways we passed the signal and came to the next. This was even more chaotic than the one which we just crossed. A frantic traffic inspector was blowing his whistle like a child who has just laid hands on a new toy. His face had expressions of a demi god in the recently watched Saligrama Mela’s Mahishasura Mardini. Waving his hands, he was trying to stop a couple of vehicles which had jumped the red light and were speeding towards him. His hand was in a stop signal, like the Congress’s symbol, but clearly both the drivers seemed to be anti Congress. Seizing the opportunity, a load of passengers crossed the road, behind the poor traffic inspectors back. The inspector whirled his official lathi on the two misbehaving drivers, who were by now long gone. Eddie uncle too was no novice. He seized the next opportunity available and slipped out of the mayhem. The chaos in the earlier signal seemed so systematic compared to this signal.
"Uncle. What did you just do? You jumped the red light?" I yelled at the old man.
"Be practical Anil. Do you want to stay at that signal all day? I know you are on a vacation, but I have work. I have to go to the fish market and buy some good fish, before others get there and increase the rates."
I accompanied Eddie uncle to the market, bought some fish, went back home and thought about Eddie uncle’s complaint against the traffic police. Clearly the police inspectors at the junction were inefficient. One of them was not even bothered about the events happening around him, whereas the other was at least trying. Something did not seem right.
At lunch, as I was biting into the juicy surmai my wife prepared, I was enlightened by the utter reality of life. It seemed as if everything in this world worked on a simple principle of cause and effect. The poor traffic inspector, who was working frantically to control the traffic, but all his efforts were in vain. It was as if he was trying to control well dressed rich mob. The other inspector who was in his own world, believed in letting things happens on their own. He was no one to control the world. His seniors had given him a shelter and he had his I phone to while away his time. Moreover it also occurred to me that these traffic inspectors spend most of their duty hours under the hot sun, heavy rains, thunderstorms, and nail biting cold and yet drivers and pedestrians give a deaf ear to their shrill whistles. The inspector in the first signal, according to me was an experienced person who by now had realized that nothing is going to stop the hooligan drivers from getting organized. The second enthusiastic and committed inspector will realize this one day and I am sure if
I meet him after a couple of months, he too would be sipping tea at a nearby tea stall, chatting with his wife over Skype.
People like Eddie uncle, who believe their Sunday masses and holy rosaries are going to save them from these traffic inspectors dare to commit traffic crimes. When they are fined for the violation, they point out at the chaotic junctions and the inefficient traffic system without revealing that they too jump red lights and cross the road when they are not supposed to. They blame the incompetency of the traffic police. How right is this? Further to this, there are people like me who think all traffic violations can be avoided by slipping a few notes down the inspector’s pocket.
The surmai on my plate was getting cold and before my wife would yell at me, I gulped down the surmai, forgetting to eat the rice, which was already cold. After lunch I went over to Eddie uncles house again to tell him what I had just realized.
"Eddie uncle, do you know what I just realized about the traffic system in India." Before I could continue, he replied.
"Yeah. I know. You think we are all wrong in not following the system religiously like the way we follow our actual religious rituals. You are right. I also know that you would want driving schools to emphasize more on traffic rules, the importance of following and obeying them. I also know that you would not want people to pay bribes to the inspectors. I also know that you think we should install cameras, radars and other gadgets to modernize the system. All this said Anil; do you think people like us will get any better? What possibly can happen if I alone change ?"
I was shocked at the last few words of Eddie uncle. "Uncle….." Words failed me.
"Oh close your mouth dude. It stinks of fish." He smiled. "You know the only possible solution to this grave traffic problem in India is to have priests, pandits, swamis and mullahs man the traffic junctions. These are the only people to whom we listen." He had a naughty smile written all over his face.
Anil D'Souza - Archives:
- The Ghost Tour
- Faith and Fear
- A Stutterer's Life
- St Pius X - My Favourite Saint
- Mangalore-Kundapur Bus Journey - Stairway to Death
- Eddie and God
- Cardiff, Call Me Back!
- Evolution of a CV
- Alliance Syndrome
- Me and My Train...
- Youngsters and the Question of Faith
- From Pathrode to Pork, Mangalore Cuisine has it All!
- Global Financial Crisis and India
- Eddie, Women and I
- Super Superstitions!
- All about the Magical Word 'Love'
- China - India Bhai Bhai..
- Hey Kid, do you Speak Konkani...?
- My Experience with a Broken Bone.
- Catholic Roce - Is it an Extinct Ceremony ?
- Three Hours at the Bus Station...
- Weddings then, now and in Future...