Loud and Clear

You have to hand it to the Gurgaon administration. When it comes to deploying advanced technologies for better management of traffic, they are second to none.

After a careful review of tools that modern technology has placed at our disposal, Gurgaon traffic police has decided to introduce the cutting-edge technology known as “loudspeakers” at prominent intersections in the city, starting with two, one of them, as always, being at the intersection closest to where I stay, the HUDA City Centre. As the name goes, it is the City Centre and perhaps one of the busiest.

On a trial basis. Mind you. They make sure, don’t they? Nothing implemented till fully tested. Without any tracking or monitoring of results. They have our backs, don’t they?

Like in the case of the series of underpasses that punctuate the length of Golf Course road, that still have an “Opened for Trial” board hanging at the entrances even though it is more than two years since most of them have been thrown open, with some having already notched up enviable records of death and destruction.

Trials are trials. And must be done. Especially in cases where the project is a fait accompli. Like the series of underpasses which, I believe, are uni-directional constructions. You cannot unmake an underpass once made, can you? I mean of course you can, if you take it literally. You can get back all the rubble that was excavated to create the underpass, and fill in the big hole, and demolish all the construction that had been done and send back that rubble to the place it had been excavated from. But you know what I mean, don’t you?

But, as usual, I get distracted. Perhaps it is the excitement of being back at the fairgrounds of my youth, with loudspeakers blaring music, announcements and ad jingles and everyone having a great time.

I am fortunate enough to pass through the City Centre intersection almost daily. Today was no exception. I drove out of our building and the next thing I know is that I had stopped at the red light at the City Centre intersection.

As I was jostling for space with other motorists to be the fastest on the draw as soon as the light turned green, I heard a booming sound, “Don’t use your mobile phone while driving. If you do, it could be your last call.”

I froze. I furtively looked on either side, then guiltily at my mobile, lying silent and forlorn on the car dashboard. I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Did the government then manage to even switch on the great ancient Indian invention of “Akashvaani” (literally, Celestial Voice), the celestial messaging system perfected by our ancestors and recorded in mythological texts, that sent out personalised messages to humans, in time for the next general elections. I confess that I have questioned senior ministers’ claims of having invented flying and their arguments that apes are not our ancestors since no one saw an ape turn into a human. But a personalised “Akashvaani”? That would have been the tipping point for me.

Alas, it was not to be. At least at that point. I recollected, in time, the Gurgaon traffic police’s plans of installing loudspeakers at that intersection. I looked around at drivers in other cars. Only the ones not talking on their mobiles seem to have heard the announcement. The loudspeaker strategy seemed to have achieved the desired early results.

“Please stop at the red light”, came the Akashvaani again. But this time I was ready. It was a great message, this one. Made a lot of sense to me as I was already stopped at the red light.

“Please wear seat belts while driving and please wear a helmet when on a two-wheeler,”

“Please park only in designated areas,”

“Don’t drive on the wrong side of the road. Doing so could cause grievous harm, even death, to yourself and others,”

…came in quick succession, while I was still waiting for the light to turn green. Such a simple idea. How would people know that they should wear seat belts while driving, or helmets if on a two-wheeler, or park only in designated areas, or not drive on the wrong side of the road, doing which could cause grievous harm, even death, to yourself and others, unless “loudspeakered” to them at busy intersections? After all, they only been issued driving, or riding, licences, after suitable checks.

No apprehending offenders. No traffic violation fines. No cameras. No issuing tickets. No electronic tagging. No satellite tracking. No concern for noise pollution. Just plain announcements. Revolutionary.

It was mesmerising. I was transported to another world. How long before they unleash its full potential by handing over the system to corporates, was the question raging through my mind.

“While you wait for the 2 minute long red light, have a 2-minute noodle snack made by an MNC.”

“Turn your nails from green to red while the light turns from red to green.”

The possibilities boggled my mind.

“Will the black Fabia please move. The light has turned green.“

“Will the black Fabia please move. The light has turned green.”

Was it my imagination or did the loudspeaker just become even louder? There was a tap on the driver side window. I was woken from my reverie. A traffic policeman was standing there and about to tap again. I lowered the window and looked at him with some disgust as he had interrupted my train of thought. I asked him crossly, “what is the matter?”

“Sir, can you please move. The light turned green 30 seconds back and could turn red again any time again. We announced it twice already.”

“Uh, oh,” is all I could mutter while I engaged gears of my black Fabia and testily jerked out of danger of the impending red light.

Don’t get me wrong. I am all for great ideas and technological innovations that further the agenda of humanity. But I draw the line at getting personal.

26 thoughts on “Loud and Clear

  1. I loved reading your post ‘Loud and Clear’. A similar amusing story could be written on our silly electronic road signs with its silly messages like ‘slippery when wet’ ‘drive carefully’ ‘etc.

  2. hahah ! Fun times in Gurgaon.Need to visit and experience the ‘akashvani’ too. You never know the next grudge the government might have is that one has not linked Aadhar cards to license plates. Will surely give way to personalized announcements “Guptaji in the white Innova, the light is green please move.The chips can be distributed later to your passengers” .

    • And if someone does not pay heed to the Akashvaani, he will be immediately struck down by a bolt of lightning that will home in on the RFID coded Aadhar card. So be careful when you are in Gurgaon.

  3. Hilarious. Poignant. Hard hitting (hopefully). I wonder if the powers that be have enough sense to discern the sarcasm. Or would this, like any any other public (in)convenience be glossed over. I tremble at the thought of what manner of innovation, I (the tax payer) will be subjected to.

    • Thx Abhijit. I believe everyone, politicians, businessfolks, labourers, are smart and capable of distinguishing what is good for them and what is not. They will detect it if it suits them and ignore it if it suits them to do that. But the bottomline, unfortunately, is that I think we have the leaders and administrators we deserve. 😦

  4. “Please remember to click on ‘Send’ when you have finished writing a comment.”
    “Make sure you click ‘Like’ because it helps to generate statistics and also makes the author feel that all his work has been worthwhile.”
    “If you do make a comment make sure it is positive or you will be ‘Unfollowed’.”

  5. I hear they will soon put these tiny speakers in pillows so the messages can be given as commercials in your dreams. Owning one (and using it) will be mandatory. This will create a lot of new employment as “Pillow Police” will visit everyone several times a night to check for compliance. An alternative would be to issue “message” t-shirts to all people. Some liken this to “taking up the cloth” to spread the government Gospel.

  6. Had a good laugh, Ankur – Thank you 🙂

    In Singapore we don’t use loudhailers. We use cameras. Beat the light and one will receive a fine with a polite note and instructions on how to pay on-line. Efficiency. Technology.

    You can protest and don’t pay. Then, you will be invited to attend court and pay multiple times more in fines. They even have night courts – to make it convenient for you. Efficiency. Innovative.

    Ah, my Singapore, a fine Singapore.


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