‘tata’ and the Traffic Police

My friend and I with our daughters were going to a garden close by. We stood at the traffic junction and were waiting our turn. While we were there, like every mother who tries to capitalise on the opportunity to edcuate our tiny beings in hand. A quick reference to the book “Pepper crosses the Road” came to my mind. And there we started with actions and animations at the traffic junction.

In this book Pepper is with his friends at a cross road and the teacher is explaining to them how to rightfully cross. Essentially speaking how to follow the traffic rules. Given the scenario that we were in I tried to emulate the story in actuality, but was finding executional problem. The parameters didn’t seem to be in our control. Though it was our turn to cross, bikes and big fat SUVs zoomed past us. We mothers, felt a little emabarassed who pretended to be dictating the sequence of events here. One of the tricky situations were when people crossed the road when it was not their right of way. K whom I tucked on my hip is pushing me further to cross, “Amma, that kaki is crossing come now its our chance, now, now!”

“No not now Bobo, only when it gets green” my voice is mellowed.

“This dada is also going, now our chance” she does not give up.

“I guess they don’t have the Pepper book, baby” I reply.

Finally, we reached the park. Me and my friend shared a what-will-happen-to-this-society kind of a glance. While we were crossing K shouted, “Surabhi didi’s tata!” (tata is grandfather in Tamil). Yes that was Surabhi’s grandfather who apparently volunteers at that junction every day during the peak traffic rush.

On our way back we saw him still performing his mime! He is an old gentleman in his 70s I suppose. I wouldn’t be surprised if he is some retired colonel from the Army, ready to take on the world. His face looks grave and tight lipped. Eyes narrowed with focus like a sniper! If you are a pedestrian who slightly stepped out the white line, then you can begin remembering your gods. He will take you down with his ferocious look and there will come a command. Hands behind-head down-on your knees, right now! (ok am exaggerating a bit!) But hats off to him and his urge to inculcate civility in those donkeys (oops! people) driving and walking.

I was enthused by just looking at this theatrical like performance at the junction. Once I met him when he was wearing a mundu. I asked him with anticipation, “Wow you are in mundu today. Are you a malayali, Sir?”

“No, almost you can say. I am from Palakkad.”

Tamilians from Palakkad are almost like amphibians. With all due respect, they shift their loyalties according to whom they meet I suppose. Whats the point of invoking this huge culture inheritance. Opportunity for a small talk, is it? Just say you are a Tamilian if you eat like one, speak like one or live like one. I am a Malayali, born and raised in Gujarat, but never had amphibian instincts or probably the other camp wasn’t so enticing!

Anyways, right across the street at the junction is the King Circle Traffic Police office. We stopped by the place and thought of having a little chat. My friend very calmly explained our concerns for the old gentleman on the other side and his health. They got a little perturbed by this. I asked my friend to step aside and got into my business like talking mode.

I was straight forward and indicated the loopholes in serving their citizens. To which they became very defensive. They mentioned their concerns and many of which are valid too. They toil day and night at the junctions eating the pollution through all their senses. I guess I pushed the Traffic police guy a little too much on the edge. They complained of people not following the rules. “You should take their licenses away”, I said.

“Pedestrians agrue and don’t listen to us.” Oh come on don’t complain like kids.

“Well fine pedestrians for jay-walking”, I said.

Frustrated he thumped a bottle of pills on the table. First I thought it was a gun. But silly me, Traffic police don’t carry guns!

His red eyes looked at me, “Madam, this is my pills for Thyroid.”

Again came a packet of tablets.

“This is for blood pressure.”

“Madam, do you think we don’t work and just sit here?”

“Yes, I think so”, said to myself.

Don’t get me wrong, I feel sympathetic to their situation and their health. I thought its time to make an exit and extended my hands for a parting goodbye. He smiled almost shyily, and gave me a weak handshake.



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