Bermuda Flyover

“To my naked eye, #Dehradun cannot take the load of any more new buildings. Wherever one goes; on ones left or right, one only gets to see four storey commercial buildings coming up. This rampant and unabated construction spree is neither wise nor suitable for the sensitive #DoonValley”

What was he thinking?

I am talking about my old friend Anoop Nautiyal, Brand Ambassador Dehradun and Founder – Social Development for Communities Foundation, Uttarakhand, who said these words, apparently a few days back.

Take a guy back to a formerly pristine town that Dehradun was before it became the capital of the newly formed state of Uttarakhand and got developed, and he starts believing that he has to save the world.

Must big cities like Delhi and Gurgaon continue to bear the responsibility for creating ecological disasters? There is something known as a shared responsibility, though I suppose Doon residents would not have heard of it. Hearing Anoop, the common man might even start thinking that all the shiny new buildings in Gurgaon have been built because Gurgaon can take their load. He might even start believing that there is adequate power and water for the common man.

As luck would have it, I was on top of a brand new architectural wonder planned and constructed by the city of Gurgaon, where I live, that was thrown open to the common man to marvel at and benefit from, when I saw this message posted by Anoop. I understand there is confusion about the constitution of the seven wonders of the world, but I also know that there will be no confusion or disagreement about the inclusion of this marvel in the seven wonders, regardless of which the other six may be.

The architectural marvel I am referring to is a flyover. For readers who may be more familiar with other traffic lingo for it, a flyover is an elevated road, like an overbridge, built usually for the purpose of crossing over an obstacle, and getting traffic moving smoothly. The obstacle could be a railway track, it could be a river, it could be another road going across, it could be a traffic signal, or some such thing. There is always something.

“But is a flyover not a common structure that kills the pre-flyover businesses on the road and creates dead spaces where the homeless often take shelter, what with expanding road networks and burgeoning car numbers?” you might ask.

And you would be right. A flyover is indeed commonplace. There must be thousands of them around.

But this is not any flyover. Unlike your ordinary flyover that would have been built over a railway track, or a river, or another road going across, or a traffic signal, or some such thing, this particular flyover goes over nothing. Well, not literally, of course. It is built on the base of solid ground and on top of the flat, ground-hugging road that was already there.

Just to give you an idea of the lay of the land, this is what I am talking about:

The light blue shaded part is the road in question before the flyover came up. There is no railway track, or river, or another road going across, or a traffic signal, or some such thing, that is impeding the flow of traffic. The dark blue structure is meant to indicate the presence of a pedestrian bridge over the road for, what else, facilitating pedestrians crossing the road. It is well understood that the purpose for pedestrians to use an overbridge is to get to the other side, regardless of which side they start from. In this particular case, the purpose of almost all pedestrians to cross this road was to either get to, or from, the HUDA metro station. That being the case, this pedestrian bridge made no effort of delivering its users to, or from, the station. People coming out of the station would take the escalator or stairs down to the ground level and then take the escalator or stairs up the pedestrian overbridge just a few metres on, and then the escalator or stairs down on the other side. This, of course, was done by the handful conscientious ones willing to follow rules and put their lives at risk by climbing a pothole-ridden pedestrian overbridge, while the masses would take the safer route, flag down the traffic and nonchalantly cross the road where you see the thinner dark blue strip across the road on the map.

But what is to be done. If a pedestrian overbridge cannot go into the HUDA metro station, it cannot. End of story.

The other manual addition made by me on the map is the red dot that represents a traffic signal.

And this is the map after the flyover was constructed. The reason you see no difference in the road is because it is an aerial view, from the top. The flyover is exactly on top of the road, which, of course, is still there, buried under the pillars and construction material of the flyover.

But that is not fully correct. I am being unfair. You don’t see the pothole-ridden pedestrian overbridge in the ‘after’ picture. I think it was demolished based on another bold new policy of the government. Since we cannot build pedestrian overbridges in a manner they can be used by pedestrians, why build them at all? Sensible, I suppose. And pragmatic.

And this is the view of the flyover from the side, clicked as I was coming out from the station and down the escalator. You can see the cars waiting for the light to turn green. Fortis Hospital is visible behind it.

So, here I was, having driven up the up part of the flyover, drooling at the prospect of crossing quickly over something that I did not know existed. It was mysterious! Magical! I knew there was no railway crossing or river or road beneath the flyover, but, one does not know what one does not know. There must be something. Maybe the authorities have struck oil in that patch. It would have been difficult to drill with cars and other vehicles honking and running around all the time and trying to fill their tanks for free from the gushing oil. But with traffic diverted to a flyover, the authorities could carry on with the responsibility of running the city. Or maybe they built the flyover just in case they strike oil in that patch in future.

I jammed my brakes as the car ahead of me had stopped. As had the one if front of the one in front of me. As had…I hope you get the picture. I looked up. Actually, I looked down since I was at the pinnacle of the flyover, almost twenty vertical feet clear of where I would have been had there been no flyover. From that vantage point I could see that the traffic light at the bottom of the down part of the flyover was glowing a bright red, with the taillights of most cars ahead of me lit as they were pressing the brakes down.

Would they be jamming down on the brakes if they were waiting at the same traffic signal on a flat road?

No way.

WouId I have had this view had this flyover over nothing not been built?

No way.

Stop at traffic signal before the flyover is built and stop at same traffic signal after the flyover is built. Fair deal. I silently thanked the authorities and made a mental note to vote for the same people once again.

The transformative power of a revolutionary idea can never be underestimated. I can already see study tours led by city CEOs and corporators from around the world making a beeline to Gurgaon to learn more about this marvel. Personally, we have always struggled with sightseeing choices in Gurgaon whenever someone was visiting us, ending up with detested ones like the Sultanpur bird park and a walk in the Aravali Hills. That problem is now solved. It helps that we live but a ten-minute walk from this wonder.

With the Bermuda Triangle solved and people losing interest in the Yeti, I can even see correspondents of TV channels working on the great mysteries of the world descending in large numbers on Gurgaon, where else, and trying to unravel the new mystery. The cricket game I was watching yesterday was interrupted several times by ads which said, “Sensational discovery; why the Gurgaon flyover was really built. Coming soon to your favourite channel.”

Sign Language

“But then, when will I cut them?”

I had forgotten it was my responsibility to ensure he was able to. Cut them. Blame it on old age.

The question had been asked by the young man sitting next to me and, in all likelihood, triggered by my saying, “this is not the place to be cutting your nails,” after my initial “perhaps you should be doing this at home,” had apparently gone unheard.

The trigger for my statements, in turn, had been the act of this young man casually taking out a shiny nail-cutter, spreading a newspaper on his lap, and starting to carefully chip away at his nails, taking care, as a responsible adult, to not leave any vestige of the activity in the surrounding area. Inside a train on the Delhi metro network, that I now take every day to get to my place of work. And back.

And, after the second statement, since there could not have been any doubt who I was speaking to, as there was nobody else cutting his nails in that coach, or in any other coach is my guess, he had left the nail on the middle finger, perhaps as a fitting hint, half-cut, and looked at me and asked the question. Crossly if my interpretation of his look is reliable.

Then he had looked away, perhaps not noticing my discomfiture as I did not have an answer to his question, and allowing me the luxury of a sigh of relief. But then he had looked right back at me and asked, “Where does it say?”

“Where does it say what” I asked right back, now composed.

“That I cannot cut my nails here?” He had not wasted time. When he had looked away from me, he had quickly scanned the coach to check if I had any basis for my unreasonable demand. Of requesting him to not cut his nails.

I was the deer in the headlights now. I sheepishly looked around, desperately searching for some sign of a sign behind which I might have hidden. I need not have. The young man had done his homework. There was a sign prohibiting sitting on the floor. There was a sign prohibiting smoking in the coach. There was a sign prohibiting eating and drinking. But nothing prohibiting the innocuous act of cutting nails. One’s own.

But he was a reasonable young man. He saw my discomfort and offered me a lifeline. “Has the Prime Minister asked the people to stop cutting nails inside coaches of the Delhi metro in any of his ‘Mann ki Baat’ episodes?”

The nation knows that the Prime Minister had asked countrymen to maintain cleanliness and hygiene. How else could we have known that we ought to maintain cleanliness and hygiene. I recalled, with some guilt, that even from the ramparts of the Red Fort, from where the Independence Day address is delivered, the Prime Minister had so far made no mention of not cutting nails inside coaches of the Delhi metro. How could anyone be expected to know that cutting nails is not be done in the coach of a train on the Delhi metro rail network.

As soon as the train stopped at the next station, I got off, though my destination had not arrived. I was unable to face the young man.

I should have known better. Walking down the platform I was reminded of my interaction, just two days back, with another youngster. This youngster eating in the coach. Did I already say there were signs prohibiting eating and drinking inside the coach? This young lady was eating right under the sign when I pointed this out to her, earning the response, along with a ‘puppy dog eyes,’ expression to go with it, “So when will I have breakfast?” I had looked away, shame-faced, at not thinking about such obvious issues. I may not have been her parent, and she might have been physically a full-grown, independent adult, but clearly I had not thought about when she would have breakfast.

And had continued eating her aloo parathas and pickle which the entire coach knew was of mango, seasoned in mustard oil.

The entire coach now also knew of this old chap who was poking his nose in other people’s affairs. “Can’t you get a mobile phone for yourself?” was the unsaid chorus. “Then you can join us and be brave and nationalistic and patriotic and send out forwards here and there on your mobile, when a criminal incident, usually a murder or rape, catches everyone’s attention and gets reported in the media. But following simple to understand, day-to-day rules in public life? Where do you think you are? Canada? Singapore? In fact, if we discourage breaking simple to understand, day-to-day rules in public life, it might well stifle out more serious crimes that have the potential of catching attention and allowing us the opportunity to be brave and nationalistic and patriotic and sending out forwards here and there on our mobiles. Whose side are you on?”

And that had not been an isolated incident either. A day earlier, I had pointed out the sign to another young man seated next to me and about to bite into his carefully packed sandwiches, to which he had, again with a ‘puppy dog eyes’ expression to match, had pleaded, “I am feeling very hungry.” But, this young man had packed his breakfast and kept it back in his bag. He must be a loser.

I had walked up the stairs and reached the ground level of the station. My mind was made up. I was going to see the station in-charge and request him to put up fresh signs inside train coaches so that decorum is maintained. ‘Do not shave in this coach,’ ‘Do not wash clothes inside this coach,’ ‘All cooking activity inside this coach is prohibited,’ in addition to ‘Do not cut nails inside this coach’ were some I had on my mind. And, of course, ‘Do not rape inside this coach,’ and ‘Murder is not permitted in any part of this coach.’ That would teach them, I hoped.

And that is not all. I would also request him to take away the existing signs like ‘Eating and drinking is not permitted inside this coach,’ since they are not followed in any case.

More pleasant rides on the Delhi metro await us.