Happy to Ride in Belgaum
by Swatee Jog
I love Belgaum! It’s the city I was born in and where I grew up , enjoying its cool climes and greenery. Studying in St. Joseph’s meant riding a bicycle through the over-bridge. My dad never feared for the traffic back then and I continued to ride my BSA SLR for years till I finished school. But today, 20 years hence, things are not the same anymore. If Pune’s rickshawwallas are notorious for their rash speed and ‘I care a damn’ attitude, if Bangalore has its own bunch of bullies manning public transport systems, Belgaum is not far behind! I’ve observed Belgaum traffic for years now and it’s only recently that I see a spurt in all types of vehicles, especially the two wheelers. People love to blame the traffic management system of Belgaum for its disgustful traffic problems, but I feel it’s we the people who are to be blamed.
Have you ridden through the busy streets of Kirloskar Road, Ramdev Galli, Maruti galli, Huns Talkies Road during the peak hours? The traffic crawls on because riders slow down to find a suitable parking space! To hell with those waiting for you to clear the road! All vehicles will be parked perpendicular to the road and not at a slant that would ease removal of vehicle. Men, women, youth of all ages find it extremely annoying to display a signal while they turn right. If you are riding behind someone who intends to turn right, keep a tab on his neck…if it starts tilting to the right, you slow down. Invariably, he will turn right without bothering to signal! I have improved my sixth sense in a bid to avoid potential spitters (who are a growing lot). If I spot someone who is frequently looking to his right, I know that he is waiting to spit! Beware of the wind direction, for if you are caught in the opposite end while he spits, God save you (and your dress)!
Honking is the favourite music of Belgaum riders. The sound ( almost reminds you of the vuvuzelas), portrays a wrath of fury if you don’t allow the person behind to overtake you. Sometimes, it is clearly visible that there is no way you can allow him to overtake owing to the vehicles piled ahead of you, but the honking continues! The best way is to stop in your path, turn behind and give a “WTH” look! Believe me, most times, it works!!! I always wonder how friends always meet at road intersections! I know they have to stop where they have crossed roads. It pains me to disturb them in their chat, but I need to enter that lane… so I too…what else ‘HONK’. Then I get a ‘WTH” look…but I keep a blank face. Almost poker straight…never look in the eye of those whose chat you’ve disturbed! Again…IT WORKS!
Belgaumites need to be given a lesson or two in following the signals! Have a look at the traffic congestion at station circle when the red signal is on. When it turns green, even those who intend to turn right towards military Mahadev will lead the pack in the front. So when they get the green signal, they ruthlessly come from the left corner and head right…disturbing the others behind!
Try riding through Vitthaldev Galli …it sports a look that of a parking lot. Two wheelers are parked in an angle the rider last applied his breaks into. Kore galli, Kacheri Galli, Narvekar Galli (Belgaum) all tell the same story!
Earlier, it was easy to overtake most women riders for they rarely went beyond 40 kmph. The Sunny, Luna, Scooty, etc. never allowed them even if they wished to! But now the new- gen girls all sport a scarf and zoom in full speed on their 4-Stroke bikes. You can’t even see their faces, thanks to the fully draped scarves!
We all know that the traffic police alone cannot do anything substantial unless the citizens co-operate. If everybody forgets their traffic sense at home along with their helmets, then it won’t be long before Belgaum resembles a banana republic!
About the Author: Swatee Jog teaches at Bharatesh Global Business School, and her articles have been published in Mint, HT and DNA and she has also authored two books which are being published, one on management and one science book for kids.