Sunday, November 29, 2009

Our Politicians Who Rule The Roads

Adman Suhel Seth made an interesting observation the other day on a discussion that I was part of. "We fear our politicians while they should be fearing us." Obviously he was not referring to the gentle Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The subject was 26/11 and the first anniversary. The first anniversary demonstrated, as many commentators have amply pointed out; that the political class is now better protected and drives in sturdier SUVs and of course treats you like the very terrorist that its supposed to protect you from, were you to get in their way.

Yesterday I was racing to the Bangalore airport to make our evening flight back to Mumbai. We were on the last stretch. I turned around to see a white car with a howling siren honking ceaselessly. Surely we were not getting pulled over. Wrong, we were getting pushed over. Then the red light Ambasssador was alongside. In its wake, was a Volvo SUV, a XC 90 or therabouts I think. Prices start at Rs 45 lakh. Of course, the starched white politicians I could see seated comfortably within (forgive me if they were volunteers at Mother Teresa's) deserve no less.

Whose Roads Anyway ?

A policeman seated in the front left seat of the Ambassador car leaned out waving his finger threateningly. Our driver, fresh from a battle of words with a motorcyclist a few kilometres earlier, seemed raring to defy. He kept pace, both cars were now racing alongside. The policeman's finger kept going, finger waving. Now I was getting worried. One part of me wanted to cheer the driver on, the other part of me, was worried. What if these guys jumped out with guns and started firing ?

Fortunately, they did not (start firing ie) and we screeched into the terminal even as the motorcade veered left into another lane. Obviously, the reserved ones for VIPs. And then the sickening sight of the policemen genuflecting before them, rushing to clear the way. And then I lost sight and interest. I had a flight to catch.

This happens every other day in Mumbai city. Politicians, and I suspect, many others, routinely brush traffic aside like the roads were maternally willed to them. I've always wanted to force them aside and ask, "What gives you greater right over this road ? How is that these policemen whose salaries I pay for treat you like a lord and me like a serf." Isn't democracy is about it being the other way round." Maybe I will, force them aside one of these days. Remember you read it here first.

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