Thursday, October 29, 2009

Thinking out of the b-b-b-box......! (week)

Actually, I have always wondered who declares the various weeks, months and days that we celebrate. And I have decided to just announce my own.

It isn't always that two blogging friends ,
Manju and I, repost on the same topic. In honor of this , I think it is fitting to declare this as the "Thinking-out-of-the-box Week", a unique week beginning on a Thursday.

All our blogging friends welcome to string their pearls of wisdom....

Management gurus chortling with glee seeing everyone and every one's friend talking about "thinking out of the box" , obviously never thought of two things .

1. Which box, and of what size.

2. Who is in the box ad who is doing the thinking.

3. How the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority, hitherto referred to as MMRDA, would excel at using this concept in unusual ways.

Living in IIT Powai, it's almost like living in a park.

That is, if you forget, having to dodge , disdainfully sneezing cows and bulls, who break into a Pavlovian Gallop in reaction to a two wheeler loudly changing gears in their vicinity, or, monkey families, in defiance of "hum do hamare do" , blithely scampering across trees and building gates, with a greedy eye on a bag of groceries being carried by a stupid human. Pythons and snakes are passe, and these days they spend more time avoiding Indica's and Honda's that seem to have invaded the campus

The main arterial road outside IIT, that connects west to he east is being "redeveloped" and one of the first things they did was to immediately raze to the ground the various convenience shops across the road, in the interests of road widening. The MMRDA, while regretting the "inconvenience", likes to put up boards saying "Please bare with us" with a fine disregard for spelling, and a great tendency for pun, or maybe they think its fun.

I am convinced that the MMRDA , in cahoots with the BMC, has a secret agenda. It is called "thinking out of the box".

The only difference is that those in the box and those thinking are different entities.

The idea is to teach the pedestrians a lesson. They need to "know their place". And how dare they appear on the windscreen of a great man , simultaneously on the wheel and his cell phone, shivering in the air conditioned interiors of his gas guzzling contraption with tinted windows ?

The road belongs to wheels, and NOT to legs.

Why else would they dig "boxes" in the rubble, about 5 feet deep, big enough to hold a person like me, and position them , so close to the road edge, that speeding motorcycles force pedestrians into them? Believe me, slipping into such a "box" while carrying a big watermelon and 2 kg of tomatoes , is not something you wish ,even for your worst enemy.

These "boxes" have been dug every ten feet or so. No sharp edges on the box , but a smooth and fine slide into the nether world is ensured, as you step aside in a hurry to avoid an onslaught of six motorcycles, who have a fetish for overtaking from the left. Helmets are supposed to be for safety. Actually, they are for hiding the drivers face, so you cannot remember them when you complain to the police. One less case to handle. Load reduction for the police. More time for imposing fines. A win-win situation for everyone, except me.

I am sitting in the box, and they think outside it.......:-)

Time was when traffic signals outside schools had some importance. Children, accompanied by retired grandparents and parents crossed the road in large numbers at given times.

That was when the Sports Authority of India (SAI) and the Mumbai Police decided to "think out of the box". All the boxes for trespassing pedestrians were already dug. And something was needed to bring about improvement in the track and field situation of the country.

So they fixed it so that the pedestrian crossing light would remain on, precisely for seven seconds.

Other countries have the motto of "catch them young". We catch them even old. And so, every morning , you see a gaggle of kindergaarten and primary kids, being escorted by retired grandparents, trying to sprint across a wide expanse of potholed road, trying to adjust school bags, lunch boxes, sun hats and water bottles.

The SAI needs to be applauded for thinking out of the box, in an effort at introducing sprintingand hurdles training for school children. It also reduces the number of potholes the BMC needs to fill, since we need to have natural hurdles. The Mumbai Police have obliged with creative road dividers, all in concrete.

And woe betide anyone who is being taken in an ambulance , anywhere. You need to get in line, even to die.

Maybe, if the road dividers were temporary , they could be shifted, to allow discretionary priority travel for the ambulance. But that is more work for the already burdened police. So you "think out of the box" when BMC suggests concrete road-dividers, and keep silent.

So many folks benefit. The police, the BMC, and the contractor they choose who will magically reappear a few months later to break down the same road divider, as some one with a secret agenda, a not so secret Z-class security, blaring sirens, red lights and open ambitions needs to pass by in a hurry......

There is, on this main arterial road, a Gurudwara, a Masjid and a Mandir. No amount of boxes and thinking out of them appears to have lead to a solution regarding their relocation. They stand in solitary isolation amongst ruins of their old neighbouring shops. No one DARES think about them , either out of the box, or inside it. A box implies boundary conditions. And here , there are no boundary conditions. Just conditions.

In the meanwhile, I have emerged, bloody but unbowed, watermelons, tomatoes and all, from the BOX, after thinking inside the box, about life outside the box.

I have bought a whistle. Rs 8/- only. It's readily accessible in an open compartment of my purse.

When in danger of being relegated to inside the box, the sheer moving pedestrian population allows me to freely give a piercing whistle that temporarily brings the traffic near me to a confused stop. Some startled glances (others), some shrugging of shoulders(mine), and we get to avoid the MMRDA boxes and move on.

Crossing the road is even better. Crowds have never been so welcome before. As you shuffle across with the masses, you take a fake, troubled look in the opposite direction from the police, and blow the whistle . People walking along don't bother you. One police thinks the other has blown the whistle for some purpose. By the time he figures it was a non police whistle, you get your additional ten seconds right there.

I have just decided. While I don't like the BOX, I will stick to the THINKNG outside the BOX.

And I am grateful to MMRDA, BMC, SAI and our own
Police for introducing me to the two.


  1. LOL! You actually do that UK? I am sure all the pedestrians are very thankful to you for your amazing initiative. Just a week back I was right at the same spot, wearing a dainty saree, trying to sprint across the road at the next available gap between two vehicles. Finally, my FIL had to guide me through the vehicles holding me on one side and the Boy on the other. Because he said 'he does that everyday while going to the market' He knows exactly when to raise his hand pleading vehicles to stop and then sprint across.

  2. I'm glad to see that you re-posted this. Great post!

    I have decided to follow your example, and keep a whistle handy to use when I want to cross the road.

    Will this idea work in Pune- do you think? The traffic there is much worse than in Mumbai!

  3. not related to the post

    "living in iit powai is like living in a park -"

    using a whistle - won't that have a conflict with the traffic police man's whistle ? - not that there is any nearby.

    don't give any ideas to the kids in the campus. everybody will have a whistle and you don't know how things spread like fire in the hostel and with text message it only takes the time to press the send button.

  4. Yes, living in the IIT is like living in a park indeed ! And living on the arterial 'redeveloped roads' would need everybit of all that you have put in. The whistle. some lungs. And some huge spirit to do all that you do over there !

    I havent seen cops here use the whistle as much. If using the whistle was indication of who was really in know who in Powai is !


  5. Suranga, you are soooo funny. I love reading your posts because your sense of humor is just wonderful. You can make the boring facts of traffic woes just sparkle with laughter.

    I know the problems of being a slow pedestrian trying to cross in front of impatient drivers. When they are also inatenttive, your life is at stake.

  6. Absolutely brilliant Suranga!!!

    We should plan standard whistles for all ages. A musical but piercing nursery rhyme truck horn for kids, a bhajan horn sound for senior citizens and rock music horn sounding whistles for teenagers :)

    It's interesting how trucks have louder horns when actually a pedestrian is more likely to use them for self defence :)

    What an idea Suranga-ji!

  7. Isn't it a curious thing how such a small, shrill thing such as a whistle can cause someone to stop. Is it the sound or the way we were raised to respect the sound? I think it's great that you have your own and use it "outside" the box! Kudos!

  8. G Yes, I actually do that, and one of my friends has been doing that even before me. Just to be on the safe side, I have even shown it to the traffic cop, and discussed the blowing with him. :-)

    Manju Thanks for giving me the idea to repost this. And no, I dont think this will work in Pune. The rickshawallahs will probably whistle right back.

    Anrosh There is so much chaos at the road crossing, and everyone is so busy crossing in droves, I dont think I am corrupting any young engineering minds.:-)

    And about my whistle interfereing and conflicting with the police , have a look at this ......

    Kavi Actually, my inspiration was a bunch of chaps , workers going home from IIT after some contract work. Their leader kind of put two fingers in the mouth, let off a whistle. he held up his hand, and simply crossed over with his team, while the traffic made a doubtful stop. Actually the cops are overworked these days. I even feel like volunteering to help sometimes. But have been disuaded :-)

    Darlene Thank you. I guess you make do with what the Lord gave you ...

    IHM Thank you. I can just see the market being flooded with musical whistles of chinese manufacture, and the police working overtime to ban them. :-)

    Aleta It helps that things are a bit disorganized here. I was just wondering what would happen if you rolled down your window and blew a whistle at one of the traffic will probably be on page 1 the next day...