(The monsoons have set in properly in Mumbai, and one of the things that makes the otherwise lovely season troublesome and traumatic are the potholes that are a permanent feature of most roads, old and particularly new, and the flooding of roads thanks to the abysmal municipal services related to roads, trash collection and repairs every year. The attitude of the powers, the blatant ignoring of citizens, and the general ethos of those that purport to rule and manage, and the politics of it all, sometimes gives you a different understanding and view...and just sometimes, a sense of black humor...)
A couple of days ago, a rainy misty diesel and petrol laden evening in Mumbai, saw a massive traffic snarl or jam, on a major road leading to a World Bank aided, East West arterial road of 10.6 kilometres in North Mumbai. Vehicles that normally covered the distance from a suburb to this arterial road in 15 minutes , now stood stationery, and managed it in 1 hour and 15 minutes. Those in open vehicles like 3 wheeler autos, and bikes, ended up inhaling concentrated diesel fumes from trucks sneezing alongside.
Turns out that a huge pothole had developed in front of a major club on this arterial road, it was filled with water and junk , which had spread across the road, and traffic had slowed down. And even come to a standstill.
Did this pothole happen overnight ? No. Did no one notice it earlier ? I guess folks just kept quiet. Was anything done about this ? No. Was it rocket science to cordon off the spot, and do some basic filling before things got out of hand ? Probably. Because nothing was done.
No. It isn't what you think. I am way beyond that. We are not talking of any syndromes and stuff.
But this is PMS or the Pothole Management System.
Which is not to say that potholes, and or their management on the roads on Mumbai did not exist before. On second thoughts, the potholes were always there, I am just not sure about the management. But now that it is downright insulting in this day and age, in the 21st century, not to have computerized anything , the powers that be decided to computerize the pothole management. Hence the PMS.
Folks were supposed to upload pictures of potholes, and the authorities were supposed to rush and fill them. And maybe put up a picture of the filled pothole , I don't know.
What no one realized was the in-between steps.
Because there are many facets to this . And stupid me, I simply wallowed in my monsoon ignorance.
First of all it was impossible to click pictures of the pothole, with the vehicles covering it, and the rest of them splashing muddy water on whoever was clicking.
Whenever there is a calamity, and never mind the magnitude, the management never rushes in , in a hurry. That is done by the roadside folks, sometimes by some concerned cops, and sometimes by folks whose vehicles are stuck and stranded there.
You must identify the pothole place. Then the municipal ward. You then figure out whether it is represented by a ruling party person or someone else, and decide your official attitude (OA).
The big bosses , sometimes also the leading lights , then decide to come on a fact finding mission. Beaconed cars might be requisitioned. Led by some police jeeps, and followed by police jeeps, a first aid vehicle in addition, in case one of the worthies twists a limb trying to step here and there. Traffic police cordon off areas with flimsy red and white ribbons, empty tar drums, and recently found manhole covers from some other place. Stationing a mini concrete mixer there is supposed to be the height of creativity.
Of course there are also folks from friendly media , who take close ups of great folks looking suitably serious , traumatized, and peering through windows as assistants point out the problems, even getting 2 square centimetres of their exalted footwear dirty near the aforesaid pothole, as they bravely step out of their special vehicles. An entire gaggle of folks with hands clasped at the back, walk around pointing at things.
The plan of action is decided one day later. Trusted contractors are contacted. Someone who has clicked the pothole on this official trip quietly uploads it on the PMS. Staff is yanked away from some other pothole filling site, and allocated to this one. There is a safari suited guy holding a diary amidst all the workers. Ensuring the "mix" of the filling. And he is constantly on the phone.
By and by the work is done. Several municipal vehicles arrive every now and then depositing fellows who come and have a look, speak on phones and nod. The cordoning off is still on. Various large vans act pushy wild in their 4-wheel attitude, as the road narrows, and scrape past little Nanos and Santros .
The following day sees a set of trucks and tempos arriving with bamboos, tarpaulins and rope. A pandal is to be erected. A stage, a bunch of red velvet chairs. A couple of banners ; sorry several banners proclaiming the everlasting gratitude of party functionaries towards the powerful satraps.
Folks in abnormal spotless white terribly at variance with what is perceived by the hoi polloi. Microphones, speeches, applause. Cutting of ribbons around the pothole. Actually, some worthy will inaugurate the hopeful absence of something : a pothole.
Tea. Marie biscuits. Samosas.
It rains cats and dogs outside the pandal. Someone takes a photograph of he pothole, only to realize that it isn't there. A patch of cement in closeup is clicked. Uploaded on PMS. No one will ever know.
By and by the power folks return to their life of eternal sanctioning of things in the office. The pandal is dismantled. Next day, the traffic zooms across the said road, over the aforesaid pothole area, kind of hurting the cement molecules.
For the pothole, the holiday is over. It is time to face the music...err rain,junk,and screeching rubber tyres, heaving under the weight of trucks and cars.
I am just curious about one thing.
This arterial road, widely praised and cursed at the same time, is still called the Link road defined by its origin and destination. Strangely , one doesn't see a political tussle going on about naming this road. After someone exalted . After whom so many things are named in Mumbai.
Surprising. And kind of sad.
I was hoping they would have a grand naming ceremony . I would have tolerated all the cordoning of roads, pandals, and blinding banners . The powerful types would cut a ribbon and drive across the entire 10.6 kilometres without any peaks and troughs.
Because someone, would have, by then fixed ALL the potholes on this road , at least for this season.
And then I would drive home, on another rainy misty evening. Turn on to the arterial road. Enjoying the green that dots part of its landscape, and the blue of the water that happens later.
I want to cross my fingers, but I cant, as I am driving. Would have loved to touch wood too. A bit difficult inside the car.