Coming to the point of the post, Mehta mentions that traffic fatalities have actually decreased in Bombay in the last two decades and I would be surprised if that was not the case in every major city in India. It's an unintended fallout of city streets which are more crammed than ever before. The average city speeds have come down and people can basically stop from 20 to 0 in the space of a 50 paise coin. It's difficult to inflict major injuries at 20. It's a nightmare at 0. All you can do is take out your machete and start hacking away but I do not see any particular incentive for doing it either. And I don't see anyone else brandishing anything even remotely similar to a Rampuria. So obviously, fatalities are almost non-existent given the crawling speeds and an unexplainable disinclination in people for road-rage induced homicide.
All seriousness aside, it's awesome, spine chilling fun driving in Lucknow and it's humbling when you try to analyze how the hell everything just works. I am not trying to be an apologist for Indian traffic. I am genuinely amazed by its intelligence. It should not work. It just shouldn't. But it works and it works like a charm. It's a living, breathing organism with the IQ of a Nobel laureate. Forgive me for the comparison but it seems to have the sloth of Yokozuna but in fact has the nimbleness of 1-2-3 kid. Things get rearranged in matter of milliseconds. It's so well internalized you do not appreciate how this complex machinery is working. One small glance, a minute gesture, and the turning car would slow down ever so slightly so that it could turn with a decreased radius and you scrape past. And that small action simultaneously kickstarts a huge chain of reactions where every single one of the 70 adjoining units including cars, motorcycles, scooters, pedestrians, rickshaws, trucks, dogs and cows moves, accelerates, breaks, stops, shifts, turns, honks, swears, barks and moos to account for the new equilibrium. It's brilliant.
Contrary to what people think, I feel that the traffic in India is extremely polite and forgiving and it never makes you feel that you are being done any favor. It's noticeable when one tries to cross a busy intersection. It's impolite and impassable only for those who feel that they will get run over if they wade in. Once you start inching forward and basically hold your ground without making any sudden movements, the traffic adjusts itself to allow you room. It breezes past you from all sides but acknowledges that you have a right to your territory and it never tries to intimidate you out of it. Then you move some more.
After a bit of driving my scooty around in the particularly 'undisciplined' Lucknow traffic, I have noticed another interesting fact about it. There are very little, if not, no sudden movements. A mathematician would have described the multitudes of vehicular trajectories on a Lucknow road as smooth. Continuous and Differentiable. That is another reason why there aren't more accidents. Many more.
I know it's a nightmare for anyone who has to face the inconveniences of such traffic conditions everyday and I can only offer my sympathy but as someone who has lost a bit of touch with ground realities, having spent the bulk of his time in the tamed and monotonous precincts of a foreign country, there is a part of me that cannot help but marvel at the brilliant organism that Indian traffic is. The news is rife with hatred and regionalism and violence. They say that the country is breaking down engulfed in its own seething anger and suffocating corruption. They have been saying the same thing for as long as I can remember. India sags a bit, loses its way slightly, shrugs, corrects itself, and moves again. Like its traffic, it works. Against all odds.