Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Traffic, the Deccan Queen: Lessons for Life

Driving through Pune traffic has never been a pleasant experience. This would apply to almost every Indian city considering the absolute lack of civic sense and the value of patience among those who use the roads. This includes vehicle drivers, pedestrians and any type of commuter.

The concept of lanes seems abnormal as people try to get their vehicle into the nearest available slot of free space. The one shown on the wide enough to be an 8-lane highway, but definitely not accommodate the chaos that is visible. Unsurprisingly people changing lanes in their personal life too is not unusual.

The time at which the roads get used to their maximum is one element that lends to the chaos. In the morning you do find alert commuters, but impatient commuters who are willing to break any rule. Lanes are for changing or worse yet blurring. This concept escapes the mind of the otherwise intellectually savvy commuters. The time is not essentially imposed by Daytime or by fixed office-hours, but largely by a biorhythm that forces people to use the waking hours to do all their work.

Self disregard
The next picture shows a slightly less dense crowd, except for the fact that two wheelers and four wheelers are attempting to use the same algorithm to place themselves on the road. If you take a keener look at the picture, you would notice a majority of those using two-wheelers not using helmets. Once they reach a highway for commuting to a far away office or industrial park, this becomes extremely unsafe. One can then diagnose that this self disregard will show up in the way individuals handle their own lives to a great extent.

The two wheelers, being the highest statistically in any city in India, cause extreme chaos - the riders do get fatigued because of the same chaos which doesn't seem to rid itself.

I have learned a few lessons from the Traffic here, which transcends the traffic in itself. This chaos resulting from a blatant refusal to follow any road rules is a cyclic problem that is being infused in the Indian psyche. The solution can only come from homes, schools and as the new generation gets educated.

Enforcement in populations at the scale of India is difficult. If anyone believes that 'enforcement' will work, they are advocating 'dictatorship' for I have seen smaller scales of the same problem and have seen that 'enforcement' in most cases tends to be dictatorship as all enforcers cannot be trained to follow a benevolent system.

Lack of Public Transport
The primary cause of the problem is the lack of proper public transport. Most Industries and Information Technology companies have created their own solution to transport which is an added cost to their operation. However tax free, their operations might be, this burden is borne additionally by the Employer and the Employee. In India Governance is a mere farce where the complexity of issues renders it impossible for anyone to attempt to effect changes to simplify and streamline systems. However, introducing public transport and preventing private vehicles from taking on the road cannot be a solution that would be rolled out in a day. This leads to delay in implementation. Every second of the delay results in the problem from becoming larger than it was prior. Postponement always makes the problem tougher rendering sense to Einstein's statement "A problem cannot be solved at the level at which it was created."

Lack of Personal Safety Concerns
In the land where human life is aplenty, the concern for human life itself becomes reduced. Worse yet, this problem resembles a "resource availability" problem. If a resource becomes plenty, its inherent valuation decreases. Hence each person cares much less for their own safety and almost naught for the safety of the rest of the populace. This is a huge issue.

Culture Shock
India, especially in cities like Pune is witnessing a transition from what is actually Indian culture derived from the days of the "British Raj" (colonial period) to present day Western Independent and Free-Thinking Culture. India has been existing with its cultural nuances for at least a thousand years and removing the cultural roots seems impossible. Hence the resultant culture shock is also absorbed with a sense of confusion. This is later displayed in every situation - "customer service", "bean counters", "queues", "stranger interaction" where the basic human psyche is so confused that people now identify themselves by language, geography, similitude but seldom relate to each other as human.

Lack of Self Management
What is often described as "Time Management" is truly Self-Management. This is one of the key necessities of any population transcending into a highly productive value group. Unfortunately, the culture shock and the 'chaos' of the plenty results in blatant disregard for others. This shows up as poor time management. The simplest test is to find out why something was late. The answer is usually that there was an external influence to blame on which the person or persons responsible had no control. This grows in complexity and ends up slowly as a huge disregard to self in various aspects of life that become visible slowly.

The fraction of the population who identify the problems and work towards pulling themselves out of these are kept down by the inertia of a system of massive proportions. This goes on to such an extent, that Aldus Huxley's "Brave New World" or a similar system might even work for a high-population environment like India.

The Nature of Traffic :: State of Society :: Chaos here
Chaos everywhere (evident in the nature of traffic), is the price we pay for the level of Freedom which we experience. Civic "conditioning", sometimes referred to as better civic-sense is in every sense another form of "Big Brother" control. Cooperative tasking in a large scale is possibly most difficult to achieve. That leaves India and China as the few countries who are experiencing a problem to which the world will soon be introduced to aplenty.

Here we are, with understanding of an issue that envelopes us and is easily visible in our daily life.

Will we get better or wait for a rather bitter event of rapid population decrease resulting from natural or unnatural circumstances to address and resolve these issues?