Travel is the life-blood for a motorcyclist and roads the pathways for its circulation. But we unfortunately live and ride in a nation where where the possibilities of safe and enjoyable travel on our roads are as unattainable as is the phenomenal rate of increase in the number of road users. The numbers are growing wantonly while etiquette and consideration for others is vanishing even faster. This below is the outpouring of anger and shame at being counted as a part of the average road-user, despite the best efforts at maintaining discipline and showing consideration to others. And an outflow of disappointment at virtually nil possibilities of change for the better in times to come.

Road to Diversity.

Travel they say is the greatest eye opener. Well, it sure does convince you to keep your eyes wide open when traveling around our great nation. The phrase unity in diversity takes on an entirely different hue when you spend most of your waking hours on the road, sharing it with fellow citizens. Sharing you must be joking if you imagine so benign and soft a word can equably describe the instantaneous and lethal warfare that goes on, on our roads, in the name of traffic. Or if sharing actually means snatching in disguise since both begin with an s and both imply you get to keep something for yourself. Go around our country by road and you definitely see us united. United in shameless opportunism as if giving way means permanently signing off your space on the road, united in insensitivity for others genuine needs, united in callousness towards others whether weak or strong and united in the righteousness even about the grossest wrongs.

Uncountable times during our recent pan-India ride did I wish we were not so uniformly united. I wished we were diverse and different. I wished we had regional pockets of decency on the road, of respect for the fellow human, of silent unasked goodness towards abject strangers that could serve as examples that we are totally bereft of today. I saw truckers callously and arrogantly hogging the entire width of a 4-lane highway while overtaking each other at a speed difference of barely 5 kmph between them, a clogged artery of gigantic proportions, forcing other faster road users to follow in their tow. I saw 2-wheeler riders nonchalantly sweep across a busy national highway with nary a backward glance or ride two abreast, chatting, as if the road was in their village backyard. I saw state government-run buses drive up the wrong side of a national highway, lights aflash and throttle floored, totally uncaring of the horrendous damage a 10-tonne hulk of steel can do on crashing into anyone or anything. I saw unattended cattle strolling across roads with incessant traffic causing vehicles to swerve at speed and jeopardize multiple lives for the sake of an animal that shouldn't have been there in the first place.

All I saw were conditions that were so lopsidedly biased against the basic concept of life, a dynamic zone that perforce would make the odds catch up with you since the odds have been so overly populated as to totally and grossly outnumber the evens. Our roads lack the basic ingredients of giving space to sane probabilities and let them play their game. The risks so overwhelmingly outnumber the possibilities of overcoming them through skill, attentiveness and good vehicle engineering so as to be well nigh impossible to come real. Close calls are a definite surety and crashes just a few millimeters beneath the surface. Let that guard down even for a fraction of a moment and up it comes to snap away at whatever is in range.

We know the powers that be, the administrators and decision makers, are as incompetent as they are callous in their neglect for doing their job well. The roads will ever remain potential death traps due to lack of predictability in their engineering. You cannot expect the surface to be good all the way, you cannot expect well marked interruptions in your passage that will not surprise you, you cannot expect proper services in lieu of the toll that you pay. That is a universal fact all around our country. The only redemption lies in the road users themselves who can, if they have the wit and conscience, substantially reduce the risks built into our third rate road network. But that is exactly where we are the worst.

Traffic has its own built-in hierarchies dictated not by the individual whims and fancies but by the laws of physics. It is a form of casteism where the diktats of size, bulk, speed and momentum define the volume and duration of road space that is needed by each. A necessary segregation where the boundaries of separation need to be accounted for and respected. And thats where the so called modern caste free outlook, the politically correct uniformity, springs up and puts a dangerous spanner in the works. The drivers' social status or the cost of his vehicle or even his being a local in that part of the country actually defines how much of the road he wants and so grabs. Or his self-generated and self-righteous perception of his rights on the road spurring the opportunist within him. A manner of thought that even puts a pedestrian in conflict with a truck irrespective of the consequences. A behavior pattern that makes a biker challenge a car at speed when he keeps hogging the fast lane despite enough room to move into and let it pass. The results of this conflict span the entire gamut of potential harm, from momentary fright or anger to multiple deaths.

I wish we become casteist enough again to accept living with and accommodating differences imposed by situational demands on roads. I wish we become dissimilar enough to respond to individual choices of being decent and caring than remaining united and so unaccountable in our collective disregard for others. I wish we could be sure of living through the journey, depending not just solely on our abilities but on the concern shown by our fellow road users. But then I could well nigh be wishing for utopia to be real huh?