Thursday, June 05, 2008

Going around in circles...

The leading contenders for the title of this post were:
Delhi Maze
The Chanakyapuri Chronicles
Dazed in dilli...
Circles of confusion

Well coming to the point, I happened to take the risk of exploring Dilli. On second thoughts I wouldn't call it risk, because I enjoyed it. However the experience led me to ask one question - why does Delhi have so many circles, instead of traffic lights at junctions? To a Bengalooru huduga like me who is used to stopping at every intersection for a signal, the circles initially seemed like a good idea - no signal only circle. However very soon I started questioning this logic. It seemed insane to me that there was no control mechanism to streamline the way traffic merged at these circles. Though I still hate the traffic snarls of Bangalore, I cannot but admire the fact that my city has some concern for the safety of its road users.

The bright side of having all these circles is that if you have a good sense of humour, you can have a funny day out in Delhi. It all started when a good friend of mine came visiting. I thought that going to the Akshardham temple on a Sunday afternoon would be a nice idea. In preparation for our impending mission, we checked the maps, double checked with friends (who had better knowledge of the roads) and committed to memory all the way-points that would lead us to our destination. So armed with two helmets (yes, Delhi cops enforce this rule, and I appreciate their good intentions) we set off towards Delhi. If you are wondering where we started from, I apologise for having left that out, we started from my humble residence in Gurgaon.

We had an almost uneventful ride till Chanakyapuri. Almost because we took a wrong exit from the highway and had to circle back (NOTE: this is the first circle). I was really wary of making any wrong turns at Chanakyapuri, from what I had seen on the map, this place looked like it was filled with circles - more like a puddle in the rain. So I religiously kept to the road that led me straight to some circle (I know I'm bad with names, if you didn't know that, please note the point now). We asked an autorikshaw walla for the way to Akshardham, he gave us a few directions and said that we should be fine if we stick to them. We nodded and continued, only to reach a familiar monument - India Gate, another circle. We were happy that we could include this in our itinerary for the day. We made a quick stop when we spotted a group of autos nearby and queried them for the optimal route to Akshardham. One friendly auto-wallah gave us crisp instructions "Aap yahan se aise jaayiye, pehla cut chhodiye, doosra bi chhodiye, teesre mein mud lijiye. Wahan se seedha aur phir right. Phir aage left." Briefly translated, he wanted us to go around the circle ignore the first two roads that we encounter and take the third one. We thanked him profusely and continued, happy that we had some sort of direction now. I rode and my friend counted the roads.
This is a brief transcript of our conversation - "One, ignore.... two, ignore... keep left we need to take the next one... here it comes..." "damn, why have the police blocked this one off, ok lets try the next one, there might be a way to come back to this one..." "weird, this one is blocked too..." "Maybe we'll have to find another way, lets try to figure out the way" "Hey, we're back at the place where the autorikshaws are..." "Well, this is not the first time we are going around in circles..." "Anyway, lets try to find the way we came here, we'll have to go all around again for that." "Here goes the first road again.. here goes the second... Hey! the third is open now...left! left! " "Hang on! there's a crazy cab behind me, let him go first..."

Phew! we finally made it to the road that the auto wallah mentioned. We turned right and from my little knowledge of the place deduced that we were near Pragati Maidan and according to the instructions, we had to continue straight and then take a left. We reached a signal (god bless the guy who put a signal there instead of a circle) near an old fort. I vaguely remembered traveling by that road once. We decided that we could do with a bit of help regarding directions. We stopped by the side of the road and enquired with a gentleman. Unfortunately it turned out that he was an out of towner. I refuse to admit that we were lost! We were just in need of some help regarding directions, not lost. So we looked around for any auto wallah. When we couldn't spot one we decided to go straight. We religiously follow the rule "When in doubt go straight, taking a turn could lead to circles.". We didn't have to go too far, there was a crowd of people just ahead and lots of autos waiting like vultures (pardon the comparison, this is what came to my head first). We came to understand that we were near the zoo, and that was the reason for the crowd. We finally caught hold of an auto walla who had made the mistake of deciding that the best place to drop off his passengers was next to us. We enquired with him about the way to Akshardham, and before he could answer, one of his passengers (a lady, god bless her) told us that we had to take the left turn that we had ignored by following our rule. We thanked her and continued. From there on, we had a dull ride till the Akshardham temple.

On our way back, we decided to take a route with lesser circles (to be precise no circles). We took the ring road all the way to a place called Dhaula Kuan, and from there we got onto the highway back to Gurgaon. Oh yes, I forgot to mention that in between all the circling, we happened to visit the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Some circle led us to it, and another led us back. I still wonder how people manage with all these circles. I learnt my lesson well, when in Delhi, mind the circles.