In praise of Chennai Traffic

trafficI complain a lot about the Chennai Traffic. But whenever I grumble to my Bengaluru friends, the response is always “It’s worse in Bengaluru”. I don’t know whether they are trying to mollify me, or boasting about Bengaluru’s “development”. My recent Bengaluru visit proved that they were indeed telling the truth.

Walking on Brigade Road, I discovered the reason for the crazy Bengaluru traffic: the Chennai traffic ! A Maruti pulled alongside and asked me “Saar, Adayarukku yenna vazhi?” (Sir, which way to Adayar?). I started to tell him that Adayar is in Chennai, he was in the wrong city. But my friend Bomme Gowda, interrupted and gave him the precise directions for reaching Adayar Bus Stand. He then told me, “ever since you guys started the MetroRail work it has been like this. All cars travelling between Perambur and Adayar are led through complex diversions, and the midpoint is Brigade Road.” And then he rattled several other diversion routes –Mount Road to Purasaiwakkam via Malleswaram, Kellys to Kelambakkam via Kempe Gowda Circle etc.

Taxis have greatly increased their revenue because of this. I asked my usual Taxiwalla for a cab to go from Annanagar to Gandhinagar and he quoted a price of several thousands. The figure was so preposterous that I didn’t even know where to start the bargaining. “Please baba, why are you doing this to me?”, I pleaded.

He said “Don’t you know Saar, Inter-State Permits cost a lot of money?”

“ But, I only want to reach Gandhinagar-Adayar, not Gandhinagar-Gujarat”.

“Saar, tell me, how will you go there without touching Chitoor (AP) and Kolar (Karnataka)? You think I run SpiceJet or what?”metro

I felt quite upset and rang up Engineer Kuppusamy of the Metrorail project. “Tell me Kuppu, when will Phase 1 of the project get over?”. His reply was shocking : “Ideally, never! You see, we have quietly diverted so much traffic to Bengaluru that Chennai traffic is much better now. Why upset this lovely arrangement with some stupid deadline ? In fact, digging for Phases 2 &3 has commenced.”

“But won’t the Karnataka Govt. create a ruckus when they sense this?”

“They already know it. For some strange reason they are quite delighted with this. We don’t want to upset a win-win situation by asking them why”

This upset me even more; so I met Bomme Gowda (of Brigade Road) to discover the inside story. Bomme Gowda works for Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (Municipal Corporation)and is quite savvy about Govt. Policy. He laughed, “You are so naive. Don’t you know that most chennaivasis shop at T- Nagar every weekend? Havudalva (right)? You also know that there is no space to mark one more bike in T-Nagar. So motorists went further and further away till the nearest car park was in Bengaluru suburbs like Bommasandra, Jaksandra , Chikkasandra etc. Weekend shoppers parked their cars there, took the KSTDC bus to T-Nagar, shopped, and came back in the evening and collected their cars. Our Mahanagara Palike was collecting so much Parking Fees from T-Nagar travelers that we created more Parking Lots in Hosahalli, Jalahalli, and Alahalli. In the olden days, the municipal corporation rule was that every Mall should have a Parking Lot; the latest rule is that every Parking Lot should have a Mall. So most of your T-Nagar shoppers are now regular customers of our Malls. Our shopkeepers are happy, your motorists are happy, both governments are happy. We love Chennai Traffic!”

“Is this model sustainable?”

“Certainly! An IIM- Bangalore professor has already published our success story in HBR: it is called the “Tail wagging the Dog”. He has recommended building hotels in the Malls — bathrooms with attached bedrooms (not vice-versa) so that shoppers can have a bath before and after the purchase. This will solve the Chennai water problem forever. Instead of bringing Cauvery to Chennai, they will bring Chennai to Cauvery. No more Cauvery agitation in either state.Hegidhe namma paradigm shiftu( How’s our paradigm shift)?”

Vande Maataram!

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