We needed to visit Talegaon today. We started at around 9 AM from Mumbai and expected to reach Talegaon at about 11.45 AM. I was obviously going to take the Mumbai Pune Express Highway. Every time I am on this road, I feel very proud. I have always felt that it is a symbol of how world class we can be if we decide to.
The progress was uneventful till we reached the Khopoli toll gate. As we were approaching the toll naka, I could see a lot of vehicles standing. The lines at the toll gate were almost three quarters of a Kilometre long. This was quite unusual. Normally, there are never more than 8 to 10 vehicles waiting at the gate and the staff is quite efficient, so it doesn’t take very long to clear the gate.
As we were waiting, I noticed that there were only 6 toll collection lanes but about 10 lines of vehicles had formed. Vehicle drivers were trying to inch ahead from anywhere they could. So rather than the vehicles moving ahead, they were moving sideways. Every square inch of the road was covered by vehicles. I had written in Traffic behaviour and character, Some people constantly keep changing lanes, inching forward at every lane change. They would rush into any small gap, denying others their legitimate space. I think these people are opportunistic trying to go ahead even at the cost of others. Today, most people seemed to have these traits. And these were not the lowly truck drivers, but people with very expensive cars.
I do not easily lose my temper, but I started getting enraged. What do these people think about themselves? Is their time more worth than everyone else’s time? And what do they think others are? Cattle class? Isn’t their time important too. Isn’t my time important? Who do they think they are?
I started boiling. And then I remembered an event from July 2008. At Vashi toll naka, a person jumped the queue by overtaking the other cars in the line, from the wrong side. The driver of one of the overtaken cars came out with a screw driver and stabbed the guy to death! When I read that story, I couldn’t imagine how someone could get so angry at such a petty thing. I understood it now! I took a few deep breaths and forcibly calmed myself. I decided to stick to my lane and not overtake anyone from the wrong side. I also decided that I would not let anyone cut in front of me from the lane on side.
As we approached the collection booth, the things worsened. Now there were two or three lines trying to merge at the booth. The people in the central line, the rightfully correct line, my line, were obviously not willing to let the people from other lanes to merge. There was chaos. Horns were blowing, expletives were flowing. I kept quiet, but didn’t budge. Finally, we crossed the toll booth.
What kind of people are we? On one hand, we are capable of building modern, world class road infrastructure, but on the other hand, we cannot use it properly. We are willing to let go of all the discipline, break all the rules, disrespect everyone else and disregard their rights to gain just a few minutes? And this is just a symptom of the society that we have become. No wonder we have a lot corruption. Any society in which some people are willing to trample on others for even small, ephemeral benefits and get away with it is bound to become corrupt. And then these same people, us, would support Anna Hazare for the Jan Lokpal bill. Do we really have the moral right?
What can we do ourselves? Even if we can’t change other people, we can change ourselves. Let’s vow that we would respect other people and their rights.