Thursday, October 02, 2008

‘What’s your problem, man?’

Few days ago, we were walking on a very ordinary by-lane when a biker with a blared a really loud horn just next to us even though there was nothing in his way; and he kept doing it incessantly even though there was not much stopping him from moving. One of us suggested, ‘Hey! There’s nobody on the road. Why keep honking like that?’ To which he responded quite angrily, ‘What’s your problem, man?’

That incident epitomizes the attitudes of Indian when it comes to their stand vis-à-vis their freedoms and duties. In India, freedom is defined as, ‘I have a right to pee, wherever I want, even if it is right here in the middle of the road, and you can’t stop me from that!’

Why are you throwing that garbage on the road?
‘What’s your problem, man?’

Why are you crossing the red light?
‘What’s your problem, man?’

That answer over a period of time will explain almost everything that is going wrong with this nation.

One of the incidents that is permanently etched in my memory and which seem to have fueled my interest to write this blog happened when I had just moved back from US after living there for nearly a decade. I was riding a scooter to my work when someone in a luxury car parked his car right on a street that was narrow completely blocking the traffic. While there were horns blaring from all sides because the traffic stopped on all sides, the owner of the car in a business suit got out of the vehicle, opened the trunk and nonchalantly took his stuff out, and started walking away impervious to the misery of fellow travelers around him. Funnily he parked the car right under the sign which said ‘No Parking!’

Being stuck right behind him, I couldn’t move. When he was walking away I showed him the sign and said, ‘No Parking here!’ To which he gave me a reply, ‘Are you a policeman or what?’

I get really annoyed by many such idiotic actions and I often wondered why I get flustered by such incidents. One day, on my way to office, I decided to notice things and register such incidents.

The first one came within few minutes. An autowallah stopped right at the entrance of a traffic junction to get some people on board and kept negotiating with his potential customers, the whole traffic came to a standstill in the junction. What I expected from him was that he should have crossed the junction, moved just 10m ahead and stopped, so that he was not such an inconvenience to his fellow beings.

The next incident came at the next junction. While one side of the traffic was allowed by the policeman to merge, a guy in a Honda City kept pushing himself from the perpendicular side completely stifling the traffic by his bold moves. What that guy could have done was just wait a minute or two to allow the traffic to flow smoothly before jutting in.

Within a minute, came the next incident. A rider on a motorbike with a helmet on – feeling invulnerable just because he wore a plastic thing on his head - juts into the main street from a side street without looking, turning or glancing at the traffic on the main street and calmly careens himself into the traffic without realizing that a car almost hit him.

The answer to most of this absurd behavior is, ‘What’s your problem, man?’

Though I described only few incidents from Indian traffic, these behaviors can be seen in all walks of Indian life. In many ways, Indian traffic explains a lot about Indians. The traffic in India is a snapshot of all the things that is wrong with Indians. It is anarchy in action. Of few things that bind all Indians, their traffic sensibility is one of them.

All I wish for is little courtesies and little concerns. That is all we need to make this country a better place. Parking the car at the right place so that it does not obstruct the traffic even if it means traveling an extra 100m, or waiting for a minute at the traffic signal, little turning of the head while entering the traffic, etc, do not require a huge change in each of us, but put together they can bring a revolution in India.


  1. In my opinion, there are two sides to this: One, is the offender who is doing the wrong thing, in this case, the traffic violation. Second is the bystanders who just don't take such people to task. Both are equally bad. But the real issue is, now that we have lost confidence in our law enforcing agencies, it is really hard to blame the second category. The change which you expect, could be brought only if all the people wish by their heart for it. But it is good to always want the change to come. Even if it is a huge uphill task.

    Destination Infinity

  2. My wife tells me that I am the most angriest man on the road! I curse, I rant, I rave, call people damned dirty names, call them uneducated - cause I follow traffic rules and curse aloud at the rest of them. And all these times, what answers do I get from them - "what is your effing problem? Even the cop is not bothered. Why do you care? If you want, you also ride like we do! Perhaps you don't have the guts to ride like we do". All these are incredibly stupid. Do they realise it is? No! Does the cop care? No, he tell me - "Arrrre saab. Why are you creating problem. Just go saar"....

    Lost all hope....but that does not mean I will keep my mouth shut!

  3. what u said is absolutely true!!
    we[indians] when abroad keenly obey all the rules and regulations but when in india just ignore them and take them for granted...

    we still have a long way to go

  4. I couldn't agree with you more. There have been so many instances when I've found drivers being stupid and plain idiotic. There's a lack of respect for others and their rights. All we care about is ourselves!

    To changes this we need to correct our licensing procedure and make it more strict. And while that's happening, cops need to enforce the law better. Even seemingly minor infractions should be booked.

  5. Totally agree!

    Traffic scene india is the best indicator of how much we lack self-discipline!

  6. Sujai, merely telling others something, even if it is the correct thing, is not enough.

    You said:
    "One of us suggested, ‘Hey! There’s nobody on the road. Why keep honking like that?"

    Have you given some thought to how one says something like this to another - a stranger - may play some role? It's difficult even among friends to tell someone if they're doing something wrong, so it takes even more finesse when interacting with a stranger.

    Whether it's done with a smile, or said as a request in a friendly tone; or whether it's done in an angry and frustrated tone and with a frown on one's face can have day and night's difference in how someone listens and responds to suggestions.


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