Just Emkaying: The Great Mumbai Traffic Show

Dec 8, 2014

The Great Mumbai Traffic Show

My last post was in August. Its not that I felt bored or got a life, but it was all about a lot of false starts. Pretty much like this "Acche din aayenge" philosophy that's been doing the rounds of late. My draft folder is filled with many such false starts, which I have been really struggling on. After twitter, I think its getting impossible to keep my mind to one continuous train of thou...Oooh Butterfly!!!

In an effort to correct that, I've decided to open a mini blog at tumblr. This is supposed to be a daily thingy out of the randomness of my mind. (Fancy that, third time I spoke about randomness today). Do visit for deep, philosophical stuff like why burgers must have two pieces of tomatoes to stop the end of the world. Also, cool header image.

Today, I've finally found inspiration in the true spirit of Mumbai. That beating heart of Mumbai that makes it what it is. The defining spirit that can take you places, or drop you like a piece of rubbish by the side of the road. This is what you can see everywhere, this is what everyone knows, this is what everyone fears.

Mumbai Traffic.

(Vada Pav was a close second)

There I was, in the middle of the bumpy road on the link road to Malad and it struck me. What a great leveler Traffic is. Shoulder to shoulder the Audi's and the Beamers mix and merge with the Maruti's and the Auto Rickshaws. Rats and mice scurry around the tyre's of the disgruntled BEST buses. (I have no clue why they are called BEST, they should be called something more meaningful, like SCOURGE OF THE STREETS)

It's just heart warming to see how Cows, Humans & Big Boss contestants all manage together on the road. Wow.

Given such circumstances, Traffic is to be treated with a lot of respect.

If you've been staying in the same place in Mumbai for more than 3 consecutive weekends, then you must know the phenomenon that is "Check Naka". In any other city this would be traffic checking or some other normal sounding terminology. But in Mumbai it is specifically called "Check Naka", because only in this city would the cops want to put up 5 feet wide barriers in a road that is 6 feet wide, in the area that is most choked, on a road that moves at a snail's pace. To top it, there'll be a almost de-commissioned Police bus stationed half way across the road. To Top it up, the cops won't stop a single being. They'll just stand there and watch you go. Almost in slow motion.

Something from W.H Davies poem  "What is this life if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare" comes to mind.

Since I'm a veteran of the road, here are some handy tips.

1. Always make sure you leave well in advance for any travel within the city. Half an hour is a good bet in most cases, unless you are travelling from Ghatkopar to anywhere in which case a day ahead is better.

2. Travelling from Colaba to Andheri qualifies as a road trip. Better pack a picnic lunch and a good movie.

3. Get a driver if you don't want to take the pain of having a hip replacement surgery at 30. Or a Slip Disc. Or high BP.

4. Considering the time for traffic can be the difference between reaching the movie on time to see Mukesh die of cancer for the 76,453rd time at INOX or landing up to see Matthew McConaughey pick up his character from Dallas Buyers Club in Interstellar.

5. The Western Express Highway is a great way to avoid regular, mass class traffic. On this Highway you get more refined traffic due to the proximity to Bandra.

6. Don't tell anyone you are late because of Traffic. It is common knowledge that everything in Mumbai happens well past the time it is supposed to, because of Traffic. For example, the Worli Sea Link was delayed because of the heavy and slow moving traffic of cash between Municipal office tables. VVS Laxman was late because of Traffic. All the flights out of Santa Cruz airport are late because of traffic ,

7. It has been well documented that Mumbai Traffic can be cruel. Things are difficult to sort out and the best way to stay safe from Mumbai Traffic is to move to Goa. Unless you are some kind of Ambani, in which case you can buy your own Police station, Road and stage the whole thing like it happened in the US or something.

8. Traffic signals are just for show. The  real rule here is "Is he going, no, is he? wait I'll go, fuck there's a cop let me stop in the middle of the road, Hmm John is calling, *Hi John, what's up, just a sec lemme* Oh wait, here's a bus I can hide behind, Go full speed!!! Damn that moron can't he see I'm going, It's just a red light anyway. ABE CHAL SAALE SHAADI HAI KYA BC!"

Image from http://www.carmagblog.co.za/
9. The Day you leave early to reach a place, there will be no traffic. You will reach an absurd hour early and look too eager. The day you are a little late, the whole world will conspire to make you stuck in traffic, Your boss will be early, the meeting that was scheduled will happen in time, people will get promoted, Starbucks will spell names right and Victoria's secret will be revealed. But you'll be in traffic.

10. You will find vehicles break down in the most absurd places. I once saw a lorry break down on a bridge that was wide enough just for a Lorry. About 2 hours later, people realized that abusing the Lorry wasn't helping and decided to make way for the tow truck which was stuck in the traffic caused by aforementioned lorry. Takeaway: Always keep a good book and food in the glove compartment.

To be honest, I'd like to call out all the atheists and challenge them to prove that in-spite of all of the above problems, that the Traffic in Mumbai does not go into complete chaos every day is not an act of God.

Just a second, the signal turned green, ABE AGE CHAL NA!!!


You might want to check out the most definitive guide in finding Autos in India here OR all about the misery of flying.


  1. I've had that though of traffic being a great leveler ever so often in Mumbai. Love your style of writing. Do write often. :)

    1. I totally agree! All the BMW's and the handcarts stuck at the same signal :) Thanks for your kind words and for dropping by!

  2. Superb! You've earned yourself a follower :)