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That Was Fast, and Not February 3, 2009

Posted by KG in Etc., Mumbai.
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And just like that my rotation to our Public Affairs section is over. Sigh. It’s back to visas, and the hellish commute on our work shuttle.

While I was working in the PA office (AKA “The American Center,” “The Center,” or simply “PAS”) I was out of the office frequently, visiting various parts of Bombay as part of outreach, site scouting, or for events. During one of those interminable drives across the city, the all-consuming nature of Bombay traffic struck me. It is, without exagerration, a force of nature. Like the wind, the monsoon rain, a mid-Atlantic ice storm, a Florida hurricane. It moves on its own whims, sometimes as predictable as tides, sometimes not. We try to predict, based on holidays, or events, or patterns we claim to have observed, but we’re about as accurate as the Channel 2 weatherman. Which sucks — minutes delay at the beginning of a Mumbai journey can mean hours at the end.

There’s probably other places like this in the world — LA, perhaps, or Manila, or Jakarta. I wonder if it’s as maddening or as frustrating in those places, if Indonesians sigh with relief at the sight of 200 yards of traffic free roads, if Filipinos laugh at the (in)effectiveness of crossing guards and medians, if Los Angelinos base social plans at least 75% on traffic. I thought traffic was an inordinate part of people’s lives back in DC, when tales of commuting woes were endemic as small talk icebreakers, but living in a city where cars, carts, and trucks dictate how and where I go all the time, I think I understand.

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