Four and a half months in Mumbai have taught me the quickest ways to reach Heaven from here. They are in order of priority:
- Traveling in an auto-rickshaw
- Attempting to cross the road
Quick way #1
Traveling in an auto-rickshaw
Imagine an F-16 at mach speed doing acrobatic manoeuvres. Now imagine the same F-16 at mach speed doing acrobatic manoeuvres on a concrete road – that’s the best way to summarize an auto-rickshaw ride in Mumbai. It scares the hell out of you. Sitting in an auto-rickshaw you can’t help but feel like a hapless control-less passenger strapped to his seat. Visions of your good deeds/bad deeds flash before your eyes. You pray to God like you have never done before.
An auto-rickshaw in Mumbai:
- Has infinite degrees of freedom in movement
- Disobeys Newton’s laws of physics and gravity
- Can out-manoeuvre traffic by climbing on to the footpath
- Can stop from 60 kmph to 0 kmph in under 3 seconds
- Has a manual windshield wiper
The last point is significant, especially on a rainy day. The rickshaw driver operates the windshield wiper with one hand and controls the vehicle with the other. How’s that for ambidexterity? I have completely lost track of the close shaves I have had. The most recent one was with a bus which missed our rickshaw by less than an inch!
Quick way #2
Attempting to cross the road
Crossing a road in Mumbai is an art in itself. The chances of you correctly predicting the movement of traffic near a junction are zero. Sometimes you find yourself trapped in a gridlock of traffic. Your best opportunity to cross the road comes by aligning yourself with the traffic that wants to move in the same direction as you do and then quickly crossing the road with this traffic. You, of course, need to keep a watchful eye on traffic coming from the other directions. This technique, however, does not work when you are not at a junction and where you are like a chicken crossing the road. This is an every-man-for-himself game.
I wish I had a video to demonstrate these phenomena. But as they say, “Yeh Mumbai hain. Sab chalta hain!”