Some of us are so dedicated to our work that we would go to our offices even when a bandh is declared. Sincerity towards work is must and so, I like most people got out in my car to get to work. I had to get somewhere in life, didn’t I? Would asking for a leave due to bandh sound professional? I wasn’t afraid – so I just hopped into my car and drove off.
In the morning, things were fine. People said shops are open and Mumbai shouldn’t be as affected as Pune. Our office was open as well, trains were also functioning normally. Mumbai’s local trains are an indicator for us Mumbaikars – an indicator of whether things are fine in the city or not. As long as they work, we work.
However suddenly, we were asked to shut shop. Why? Because a bandh was declared. And we had to stay inside our houses not show up at work and be dedicated. That is when we panicked. We wanted to get home as soon as possible not get stuck in the city that has been paralysed recently by floods – and not so recently by a variety of things.
Mumbai is proud of its highway network (not so proud because of the recent metro work but still) and on the Western Line, we would always take the Western Express Highway because it is signal free and fast. I did the same. I drove as fast as I could and with less traffic than usual, I knew I would reach home in 20mins. But, no, instead I reached home after 4 whole hours (some were stuck for more than 6 hours!)
At first, I thought it was the usual traffic that the city had – but soon I realised that it wasn’t so. I cursed myself for leaving home in the morning in the first place. I also regretted that I had drunk a litre of water because I had to take care of my health and was recently inspired by an article about the benefits of staying hydrated. I regretted to not have charged my phone overnight as that drains the battery life – said, my tech-savvy friend. And I didn’t have a car charger that worked!
Soon – let’s say in an hour, my bladder was bursting, my phone’s battery was drained and I was feeling claustrophobic inside my car. My fuel tank was fortunately full but I couldn’t bear seeing the tank draining was I was stuck in exactly the same place – so I turned the engine off. I could see men peeing at some distance, with one eye on their cars that had no way of going anywhere. I could see that the other side of the road was deserted – but I could also see a public toilet a little distance away. I would have to leave my car unattended, right in the middle lane of the highway – but I didn’t care anymore. As I ran to relieve myself – only those who have been in such a situation understand the pain of it – I hoped that no other woman was stuck like me, with no public urinal in sight.
I remember reading about why a bandh was declared in Maharashtra but no matter how much I thought, I couldn’t understand that why me and the scores of other Mumbaikars were being punished.
Various scenarios played out in my mind – filmy style. What if we would all honk in unison to protest against the protest? That would involve me walking an 8-10km stretch and asking every car driver personally to do so. Or I could go talk to the protestors? Bad idea. Pathetic one. So I really had no option but to wait? I couldn’t even tweet about it. I couldn’t talk to anyone about it. I would just have to sit there, straining my back and seething with anger and wondering if I too should have flown abroad and abandoned the country I am often proud of. To make matters worse, I have always hated traffic snarls. This was the godfather of all traffic snarls I had ever been in because for four whole hours, my car didn’t even move an inch.
I saw lots of buses stuck on the same road and for the first time in my life, I felt envious of those who used public transport. So many people got out of the bus and started walking home. At least, they were getting somewhere. And all I had was the message from my bank from three days ago about my car’s EMI being debited – good I couldn’t look at it. I guess the only ones who would have benefitted from the bandh would be the people who sell shing and chana on the highways, in the traffic.
Four hours later, when the traffic finally moved, I couldn’t even breathe a sigh of relief. I was too tired of hoping it would move soon and had given up two hours ago. A little while later, as I took a left to exit the wretched highway, I heard an ambulance siren. It was right behind me. I didn’t know if that ambulance was also stuck in the 8-10km stretch of traffic. But it could have been…that thought was enough to send shivers down my spine.
Helpless, tired, angry and irritated, I reached home and read the news flash – grandson of B.R.Ambedkar, called off the bandh. I remembered then, that he was the grandson of the father of our constitution.
This article is a work of fiction, based on real experiences of various people.