First of all, let me openly admit that I do not drive the car. The wife does.
The thing is, I don’t have a licence. I’ve tried getting one. Several times. But something always happened on the designated day of my driving test. Once, many years ago, it was a laboratory exam that was non-negotiable. Then it was a business meeting out of town. And last year, I gave my final attempt a go, but an urgent meeting with a close friend to handle an unexpected crate of beer came along.
So, every morning, while we drive to work, I sit observantly in the front passenger seat. Taking it all in. Being one with the world outside, the air-conditioned inside, as they say in yoga classes. In such a state, I have been able to identify and classify one of the most lethal threats that Mumbai drivers face every day.
Yes, I am talking of the eternally threatening, psychopathic Mumbai pedestrian. Join me as I take you through a quick refresher course of the various types and how to predict their behaviour.
The Man from the Matrix: Traffic is but another element of nature that bows to his whimsy. When he decides he needs to cross the road, he leaps into the fray and holds up a defiant palm. There is a look of quiet confidence on his face as the traffic screeches to a halt around him. He then sternly marches across the road and goes about his business, having made many a driver swallow bile. If he doesn’t catch you off-guard, then the noon walker will get you for sure. Generally spotted around lunch, this is an elderly gent or lady who slowly walks out of their home, across the road, and back to the other side, all at a blistering four steps per minute. Around them, traffic swerves and slides.
The Venkatesh Prasad variety: This dangerous specimen can be spotted approaching the road with great velocity from one side. He runs, arms swinging and forehead frowning in determination. Will he make it? the driver wonders. But then, at the very edge of the road, he loses motivation, decelerates rapidly and calls it a day. Driver fumes.
The Footpath Flowovers: Less life-threatening, but quite inconvenient. There is never enough time in the world for these guys. In a hurry, they decide to pursue the path of least resistance—the road itself. They swarm onto the road on either side during rush hour and immediately lose their faculty of hearing till they reach their destination, at which point they slide back into the mainstream. Many a driver would gladly motor over dozens of Flowovers if it were legal. The missus would do it even otherwise, if it didn’t delay her for office.
The Ayyayyo-yoyo Pedestrian: This worrisome specimen’s thought process works like this: “I can cross. No, I can’t. Wait, I can. No, maybe not. But maybe yes. Surely, I can’t. But then, maybe now? No! Wait now? Now! No! Yes! No! Yes! Oh what the heck! This is it! Not yet!...” This is accompanied by a merry little jig on the side of the road as you drive. You half wish they would just jump in front anyway.
The Angry Middle-aged Pedestrian: Normally, this is a housewife after her shopping or a stockbroker after a bad day at Dalal Street. They walk through traffic with a scowl and en route ensure that each and every driver gets a piece of their mind. One must understand, that is an external manifestation of some personal strife, but one must also remember that making faces at them through the windshield is immense fun.
The Punctual Pedestrian: They stand by the side of the road and look left and right. But one never sees them cross. Their faces are a blend of bewilderment and frustration, because they are unable to gird up their loins and jump into the fray. We can give this variety another name: People Visiting Mumbai.
Sidin Vadukut is deputy editor, JAM magazine. Write to lounge@ livemint.com