Chaos hits the streets

IF you think the traffic situation in Kuala Lumpur, Georgetown and Johor Baru horrendous, wait till you land in the streets of South India.  It is no place for the faint-hearted. Anyone who drives needs to acquire manoeuvering and survival skills in an instant. 

Even if you don’t have to contend with bullock-carts heaped with a mountain of dried hay, be prepared for the unruly onslaught of small cars, huge trucks, two-wheelers, three-wheelers and even eight-wheelers. 

Multiple pillion riders on these motorcyles!

Morning and evening rush hours are the worst. Motorists overtake from any and all directions. “U-turns” are made anywhere and at a moment’s notice; pedestrians dart across streets without warning.

Yet young women, duputtas flying in the wind, ride their two-wheelers with nonchalance. Sari-clad women skilfully perch themselves sideways on bikes behind their spouses and often, have two children piled on for good measure. Auto-rickshaws weave in and out of thick traffic while on overloaded buses, desperate passengers cling on by their fingertips with legs dangling freely!

Nobody pays attention to traffic lights or respects your right of way. “Get out of my way!” screams the chorus of horns! Everyone wants to go first and honks incessantly at every turn and corner.

A short journey in this deafening atmosphere is enough to give you a splitting headache. Amazingly, collisions are rare; perhaps like bats, they have an in-built sensory system!

The Traffic Police has posted some interesting captions at strategic street corners to remind drivers that “Three is a crowd – avoid triples” and “Full gear – Fool’s gear. Go slow”. My personal favourite is “Go slow. Unless you have an appointment with God”!

As if the mad traffic isn’t bad enough, there is this other problem of where residents respond to the call of nature. Things are so bad that signs have been put up in two languages: “Do not urinate here”!

This article was first published in The New Straits Times, Travel Times on 25 July 2006

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