Daddy Diaries 2

The next time you’re driving watch out for the road crossers

I used to ride a bicycle to work during COVID, but the electric buses creep up on you with such deafening silence, I’ve nearly been killed a couple of times. So now, I just drive everywhere. And when I drive with my daughters and their cousins, there is always banter about the choice of music that should be played. I try to introduce the classics to them, while they want me to listen to Blackpink, Taylor Swift and Harry Styles. “Have you ever heard of the Beatles?” I asked them, putting on ‘Hey Jude’. One of the six children in the backseat perked up. “Oh yes – it’s what old people listen to!” she retorted, while the rest of them yelled “Roasted!” in unison. In retaliation, I made them listen to Jagjit Singh’s ghazals on the way back. They may have roasted me, but I let them simmer on a slow burning flame.

Driving in Mumbai not only allows you to experience the entire spectrum of emotions the human heart is capable of fathoming but also unleashes distinct categories of ‘road crossers’ that one has the pleasure or pain of encountering. They are their own traffic signal. They have no regard for anyone around. I’m sure you’ve met all seven of them but let me give you a formal introduction.

The Hand Raiser

These are people whose brain sends them a random signal to cross the road irrespective of where they are standing. It’s often in the midst of moving traffic and nowhere close to a traffic light. The brain also simultaneously alerts the hand to be raised, as if to hail Hitler, and it remains upright until its owner has successfully completed their journey to the other side of the road. Note that there won’t be any eye contact involved. These individuals don’t care about the speed of the oncoming traffic or how many people swerve or screech to protect their life; their hand is their personalised stop sign.

The Cell Phone User

They cross the road with their head buried in their phone or while speaking on it. They belong to an alternate universe oblivious of anything known as vehicles around them. They walk around the city as if they are in a matrix playing Packman on a galactic scale. They seamlessly bump into fellow cell phone users and two or four wheelers and carry on as if nothing ever happened. They might be transiently alerted by a loud horn, but after looking up briefly and realising they are still alive, they plunge themselves back into their phone. I sometimes wish the bonnet of my car would automatically open and gobble them up to make this Packman seem a little more real.

The Tobacco Mixer

You need to keenly look out for this type. These guys must have such a busy schedule that they decided to pour out the 3-4 ingredients that go into mixing tobacco into their palms, grinding their thumb against it and placing it into a pocket of their mouth, all while crossing the road, often at a traffic light. In those who have completed this process, you are sometimes fortunate to witness the release of contents in the form of a volcanic eruption from their mouths right in front of your car. Jai Maharashtra.

The Sprinter

This is an unusual kind of road crosser. You can spot them from a distance and can register that they are waiting to cross the road. But they are extremely still. Their decision-making skills seemed to have been hacked by the Hand Raiser. You drive on with the understanding that they won’t attempt to cross until you pass, but they suddenly decide to do so when your car is one foot away from their body. They sprint across the road like a gazelle being chased by a lion in the savannah and you are forced to screech to a halt, at the mercy of being rear-ended by whoever is behind. Whether you suffer a whiplash is immaterial; the gazelle has disappeared into the bushes.

The Baby Dragger

These are parents accompanied by children who inevitably refuse to cross the road when the pedestrian light turns green. These children are either too heavy to be carried or too light to cross on their own. When it’s time to cross the road, the first few seconds are spent in cajoling and requesting the child, the next few are spent threatening it, and when only ten seconds remain and it’s do or die, the parent loses all patience and the poor baby is dragged with an outstretched arm – like airport luggage that you can’t carry or push and there is no trolley around. To know if you were dragged as a child, stretch out both arms in front of you and check if one of them is slightly longer. You really fell for it, didn’t you?

The Undecided

These are perpetually confused about whether they should cross or not. They take two steps forward and four steps back. They are uncertain of their ability to dodge ongoing traffic. They stop and move in random patterns, causing all the cars around them to do the same. And after all that chaos, they most often end up on the same side of the road. They most probably simply want to add some spice to the lives of those who are sitting stuck and bored in traffic. For their own sake, they should hold hands with the Sprinter.

The Vendor

The real intention of these people is never to cross the road at all but sell you stuff like singh-chana at a signal or in the midst of briskly moving traffic on the Western Express Highway. The skill with which they do it, without disrupting traffic and allowing for buying, selling, and bargaining at 25 kmph is only possible in this part of the world. They are prolific road crossers who can not only traverse four lanes of a moving expressway but make a business out it.

All of us need to get somewhere every day, and we each have our own way of doing so, whether it’s by driving or walking. We are fortunate to live in a maximum city where we can derive joy from the most minimum of pleasures, like watching how one chooses to cross a road and not having run over anyone yet. For that, I am grateful.

Also, thank God for Jagjit Singh.


15 Comments on “Daddy Diaries 2
  • Uday Andar says:

    Mazda you are a lovely expressionist Thru your writings !! Keep going.


    All said and done it happens only in India especially Mumbai but you have to live with it. Also majority wines if you have many driver at your side it’s OK otherwise you are dead meat 🍖.
    Anyway if I am on a two wheeler I just wake their bottom and go away like he’ll.

  • Anjali Patki says:

    Hilarious and spot on. Keep the super stuff coming. We’re loving it

  • Dr. Neepa V says:

    Good one!!
    Have seen all these types of road crossers!!
    I am sure all of us in Mumbai have!!

  • Vineeta Rao says:

    Hilarious as usual doc ! However with abysmal sidewalks, traffic rule flouting 1,2,3,4 wheelers, incessant honking, crossing is often a nightmare for the poor pedestrians too. I often fall in the above mentioned categories except the paan chewer and cell phone addict!

  • Rita singh says:

    I am a Delhi dweller. But here our traffic is same as in Mumbai. Any way our vendors sell some pretty useful stuff, like kitchen towels handkerchiefs, belts etc. for half the price of shops,during festivals they sell items needed for that particular puja.I make it a point to buy from them when I happen to b close enough from my car window. Thanks for reminding us of these everyday sights which go un noticed otherwise.

  • T George Koshy says:

    Hilarious Mazda

  • Nawaz Vijayakumar says:

    I am a resident of Pune. I gave up driving ages ago but I fall into the category of hand raiser or sprinter depending on the situation.

  • Cashmira says:

    Loved your article as always…. I simply can’t cross the Mumbai streets and salute you for driving in Mumbai city you need to be a fantastically good driver to survive the crazy’s ……

  • Atman daftary says:

    Witty the whole of it. Specially d choice of music. I am into pink Floyd n hey Jude. Enjoyed sir

  • Zee Pasta says:

    I love your GreatReads when they categorise folks….

    I’d rather cringe and die before being a handraiser from hell

    But i did so once.. For a lark..

    My little girl Khush and i were nearing the crossroads at Cooperage

    Slyly i looked at the signal and knew it would turn to red in seconds

    So i quickly told Khush who was despairing over the heavy flow of traffic…

    Khush!!! Do u know how to make them stop?

    And i raised my right hand heavenward
    and screeeeeamed

    HAAAAAAALT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    As the bikes buses cars screeeched to a grinding halt…

    Khush turned to me in awe of my superpower..

    Wow zarine!!! Wow!!!
    It really works!!!!
    It really works!!!!

    Bent double, i took her hand in mine to cross the road in loud guffaws… amidst curious stares..

    I pointed to the red signal…

    The starry stream of awestruck amazement from her optic orbs ground to a halt too 😃

  • Gloria Msampha says:

    Been through all that but try driving in Blantyre Malawi in Africa. Then you will experience the art of dodging taxis, minibuses and vendors selling anything from peanuts to dogs and cats. But I suppose after a while it’s all traffic and it’s normal.

  • Ruta vyas says:

    The cell phone user description is the best, hilarious!…another one I’ve noticed is the diagonal walker….they walk the longest path between one side of the road thyere crossing and the other, never really making it in time to the other side! Leaving the last 2 lanes (if u can see any lanes that is, rather the huddle of bikes at the extreme end) scrambling around weaving thru the diagonallers!

    Very well written dr , will look up other daddy diaries!

  • Mahashweta Biswas says:

    Very well written. All your observations put together of the human roadside behaviour penned down is quite hilarious. Making these kids listen to Jagjit Singh all the way home was ultimate


  • Dr. Divya Shetty says:

    Sir you should write a book. I have genuinely never found any other doctor who has write this well. It’s quirky, interesting and informative…all at the same time!


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