Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Grandma Stops Traffic on Bannerghatta Road

Driving around Bangalore the last 10 months, I've gotten used to seeing pretty much everything on the roads - hawkers on foot with their pushcarts full of vegetables vying for space with Scorpios and BTS buses at traffic lights, a motorbike for two carrying four or five, and kids on the way from school hanging precariously out of autorickshaws.

Today's sight, however, fully retained it's shock value.

I was riding in a car on Bannerghatta Road. Work is finally getting done on that road to widen and pave it, so traffic was moving at a fast pace. As we passed an apartment complex on the left, I noticed an old lady with a red handbag making her way off the footpath and on to the road, probably in anticipation of a bus or to flag down an auto, I thought. But she did not stop moving. As our car passed her, she strode toward the middle of road, holding up her red handbag.

Traffic came to a screeching halt. She had stopped a huge school bus, about 10 motorbikes, at least 6 cars, and a couple of autos.

We had to make a U-turn at the next cut in the median to get to where we were going, so we made the turn and hurried back to where she was. She had a counterpart on the other side of the street, who had managed to stop traffic (including us) in the other direction as well. With traffic at a standstill in both directions of Bannerghatta Road, a big group of children crossed the road to go to their homes!

When the children had crossed the road and traffic started moving again, I craned my neck to get a good look at the red handbag. It read: STOP PLEASE. The old lady had fashioned a stop sign out of a handbag.

This episode, which lasted less than a minute, was as heartwarming as it was shocking.

Crossing a street at any time of day is a stressful exercise. Traffic lights are far apart and there is no concept of vehicular traffic giving way to pedestrian traffic. Many a time, I have found myself stuck in the middle of a street with traffic whizzing by me on both sides.

What a wonderful way of ensuring children's safety. With a little bit of involvement, a community came together to do what was necessary.


gawker said...

thats damn funny. It's sad though that old women have to risk their lives in order to keep children safe.

Sourin Rao said...

Only in India :)). Damn funny. My wife is from Bangalore and she just dreads walking on the streets because of the traffic. I dunno abt B'lore, but in Bombay, at least the suburbs, meandering cows, eunuchs, street beggars and urchins act as speed brakes for ongoing traffic.

Your article had me chuckling in the morning. So I see you've figured out the links. Thanks for link to my URL.

Sujatha Bagal said...

Gawker: Yeah, pretty pathetic. You have to admire grandma's pluck (or desperation?). I did feel sad about the whole thing, but only after I stopped laughing.

Sourin: We have all and more of those in Bangalore, but as usual, never when you need them.

Unknown said...

I see the tinch of sarcasm from so called indians who typically live in the west. Sad to hear this "happens only in india" refrain. I find this peculiar trait of looking down on their own country peculiar with indians - especially those who are now NRIs. In the West, everyone gangs up to cover up their shortcomings as nations, Indians gang up to expose them in public- shame on you!

Sujatha Bagal said...

Hi George, thanks for reading and commenting.

I respect your thoughts but my opinion is that nothing comes from "ganging up to cover up shortcomings" and I don't believe that Western nations do that uniformly either.

If we don't have a dispassionate eye, belive me no problem is going to get solved.

And when someone says "Only in India!" I take it to come from a place where there is pride, fondness and nostalgia (this sort of comment is not limited to NRIs, but also people who have traveled to other countries but do live in India) for India and its uniqueness - whether good or bad. I'm, sorry you picked up only on the tinge of sarcasm and nothing else.


Anonymous said...

The crossing guards at the schools here are mostly retired people,and they do it as voluntary work .I've always thought that it was something that retired people in India could do.Parents would love them for their help.I admire that grandma for her spunk and am glad that there are aged people back home who does these things.