Bangalore is well known for its WTF traffic and crumbling infrastructure, and everyone in the city with a vehicle will have their share of stories of woe to tell. The other day it was my turn, an incident which would ruin my entire weekend and the next Monday, set me back by around Rs.10000, cause me miss the wedding reception of a dear friend and probably would take some months off my lifespan due to the sheer WTF-ery of our city planners. As it does time and time again, it shows that we are all doing it wrong and how primitive infrastructure will keep us a "superpower in the making" for at least some centuries to come.
So I was on a leisurely drive through Bangalore's congested roads from HSR to Domlur via Agara, Jakkasandra and St.John's the other day. At Jakkasandra, after being incredibly narrow between crumbling buildings and semi-slums opposite ICICI bank and Barbeque Nation, the road suddenly widens out to a 4 lane wide smooth clean, uncluttered stretch, with a bus stop (terminal) on the left at the Jakkasandra signal. So I was stuck at this signal with this huge green BIG 10 bus in front of me. And as it happens in Bangalore, as soon as the signal turned green, a frenzy erupted with everyone wanting to go all at once like a long distance bus with the Air Conditioning turned up a tad too much stopping at a rest station. Now, not trying to squeeze myself into position trying to overtake the bus, I accelerated obediently staying behind it hoping him to clear the way for me, at the same time staying close to it's behind, determined not to lose my coveted position to some over-ambitious autorickshaw. That was when it happened.
I was just crossing the Bus bay on the left at around 40kph when suddenly there was an ear shattering metallic blast and the car lurched violently towards the right. I was repeatedly thrown against the car door, and it felt like the entire car was picked up by the Hulk and tossed to a side. Shaken and stirred, I sat there for a couple of seconds unable to comprehend what had happened. Then a chorus of horn sounds brought me back to my senses, and looked around to see people standing around shaking their heads. The car had stalled, so I started it and tried to drive. I heard a metallic screech in protest but the car moved, wobbling violently. A friendly biker stopped alongside and informed me that the front left side tyre had gone "out completely!" and I should better not drive. So I stopped at the side again, just after the bus stop and walked around to see what happened.
The scene was heart-rending. The tyre had shredded and blown out, my precious Aura alloy wheels were all scratched and there was something wrong with the angle at which the wheel was sitting. In addition, the covering thingy inside the wheel well had come off. So what happened? To see what happened, please look below. See those stones lying on the roads? Those happened. As the bus in front of me drove right over these stones, wheels on ether side of them, I hit those stones at 40 kph, screwing up everything. If you are wondering what these stones are doing there, these are what BBMP calls "Bus Bays". Just random blocks of concrete thrown around scattered on the road, with no markings whatsoever, presenting another hurdle in the daily obstacle course we call life in any Indian metro, city, town or village. If it is not your day, you have had it. Those traps are made just for you, and it will only get better depending on your social strata and the type of vehicle you are driving. An Audi Q7 or even a Toyota Fortuner? You might not even feel the hit. A Hero Honda Splendor with no helmet? You must be lucky to survive. Just your day, isn't it?
I was lucky enough to escape without a scratch or the car brushing against, woe forbid, an autorickshaw. But my ordeal was far from over. I found my spare had a hole too, so got that fixed first. Then changed the tyre and set off, only to find I could not turn much to the left, and the car still wobbled. Somehow made my way to the garage/service station, where they dismantled the entire assembly of sticks and rods connected to the wheels and found that most of them had been bent/twisted out of shape. Of course that meant replacements and a brand new tyre. That day's ordeal over, I reached home at 10pm, only to return the next day to change more stuff including the brake disc and bearings. Except for the drive shaft, I had replaced almost the entire wheel and stuff around it! And got slapped by a bill for Rs.10,000. The wheel still makes funny grinding noises.
(Left: The destroyed wheel arm, the thingy which connects the wheel to the car. Notice how it was bent out of shape. The black one is the replacement piece. Right: the destroyed tyre, with the sidewall torn open.Much rubber was taken off it.)
Now, what can I do about this sad incident? Well, what should I do? Claim insurance? Go to Corporation Circle and shout at BBMP? Go on a fast demanding all stones on the road be removed immediately? Blame Yeddyurappa and/or Manmohan Singh? Join "Team" Anna Hazare? Outrage on Twitter? Write scathing comments on Rediff? Nothing! What can I do but curse my fate that I lost 10,000 of my hard earned pittance and 2 days for no fault of mine? Well, Yes! Like any good Indian citizen, I kept quiet, took it all in stride and concluded that it was my "karma" that this all happened to me. Don't I know that here in India if I want my ass to be safe, I have to take care of it! How can I expect the government to do everything for me? I should have noticed those concrete blocks lying on the ground! Instead of appreciating the will of the BBMP to "construct" "bus bays" to rein in unruly BMTC drivers, I complain about it because something happened due to my own hindsight! What an asshole I am! Right?
(Left: Another view of the "bus bay" at Jakkasandra. Right: "Bus Bay" on BG Road, near the Gopalan Mall. Here they have thoughtfully propped up a traffic cone on the stones, though they are not painted. Something like that would've saved my 10,000)
When will our planners and government wake up to proper infrastructure? I do vote, pay my taxes, help old (and young) ladies cross roads and hence I believe I have a right to drive on roads without fearing about my car's undercarriage being torn out by random concrete blocks strewn about on the roads. 10 heavy concrete blocks arranged in a line do not make a "bus bay", no siree. Painting the stones yellow does not help either. In all, a simple line on the road indicating where it leads, or a proper divider with a tall sign in front of it - just that would have done the trick. Instead, we have to have eyes all around our vehicles as well as under it also now to thwart any misfortune that can befall us. I wish people in charge would notice small things while they take a chai-cigarette break from all their busy looting and provide people who pay them at least some basic civic necessities. Till then, we will keep repairing our car's undersides with glee! Whatever, it looks like we will remain with primitive versions of infrastructure and behavior. Maybe cows will save us.
P.S.: I also look at the bright side. At least we have roads, right? And below is the picture of a real Bus Bay in Luzern (Lucerne), Switzerland.
Picture Courtesy: Now Public.com