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05 September 2012

Traafic Jaam

Photo courtesy: Cityjournal.in
A few of you know why I have not been blogging as much. In the soap opera that is my life, this is but another blip. Some of you also know we had visited India and have only recently returned. This year's visit did not involve rest and relaxation. As an aside, it usually doesn't; but this year was particularly difficult. In any case, we went to Bombay and then to Kerala; three days later, my mother-in-law was hospitalised and we spent our time going to and from the hospital from our respective houses. 

We discovered that if we got out of the hospital (or our homes) at a certain time, say, anytime between mid-morning and midnight, then it made no sense to take an auto rickshaw so we could get home or to the hospital quickly. As far as eye could see, vehicles would be packed together bumper to bumper. The first time it happened, Sadu was glad he was walking. The next day, on my way back, I didn't even bother looking for a rickshaw. It was faster to walk.

As always, when I need to keep the blog going, I turn to my personal caped crusader (well, not really, but I'm allowed some poetic license) to fill the lacunae. So, here, is another of Sadu's laments. 

When I was going to Chembukkav

I was going to Chembukkav-uh
One afternoon in mid-August.
That's when the monsoon ends in Keral-uh.
And so, of course, the rains began in earnest.

I made my way through flooded paths
Raincoats and umbrellas all in a huddle
It was raining cats and dogs.
I almost stepped into a poodle...

When came I to Patturaickal junction
What did I see in front of me?
To the limit of my vision the streets were filled
With cars, buses, rickshaws and the occasional lorry.

And as they gridlocked stayed
From them arose a cacophony
Of horns and shouts and curses
A staggered Schoenbergian symphony.

I asked a watching police constable
Who stood  propping up a fence
"Saar, what ails these vehiculared people?"
He winced and spoke with rare eloquence.

"Traafic jaam", he said succinctly
And viciously at a passing beetle spat
"Cars! Too many rich people, that is all, simbly."
His sympathies, definitely lay with the proletariat.

"But 'til where," I asked?
The guardian gazed deep into  my cerebellum
"Town, district, and far beyond," he said
Maybe even to Thiruvananthapuram.

And truly at TV-Puram, the CM
Asked his minions if it was true
That the traffic would not budge at all
"No, not even from Kottayam to Trichur."

"And it is much worse," they cried
"Do you realise, Saar,
"We left for Delhi yesterday
Yet we are still stuck in the car."

"What?" cried the CM in disarray
I thought we were already at the centre
"Saar, you fell asleep on the way
Lulled by melodious party propagander."

"Now the opposition will use this against us
And ask questions in the assembly."
"Not to worry, Saar," they smiled; "Their bus
Will not make it beyond Sultan Bathery1.

"Even if they do, they will be stuck.
We guarantee they will not reach Thodupuzha2
Reduced to singing in their ancient truck
Namuddakar Russiakkar Stalin namudde netav*

But the opposition did no such thing
They sat and weighed the situation
And watched as the local populace
Showered the ruling party with vituperation.

As I crisscrossed fro and to Chembukkav-uh
I saw in the midst of my perambulation
Stationary vehicles I had grown familiar with
Shaju-mon, Gracy-mol, Kerala State Road Transport Corporation.

The traffic jam grew, ah woe betide
And passengers grew dessicated 
Their starving lips were gaping wide
Their tummies shrank abbreviated.

I saw this scene almost every day
When I visited my wife-house
(This is what the male Malayalees say
When they refer to the residence of the spouse.)

Then finally the opposition
Seized on opportunity's knock
Announced a complete statewide hartaal
No vehicle to go forward, no person to walk.

The news of this announcement
Came as manna to every fellah
And liquor stores on the day before
The hartaal, raked in the moolah.

Pedestrians flocked from far and wide
To buy their spot of liquor
To spend the anointed hartaal day
In a happy drunken stupor.

The motorists on the other hand
Spent hartaal day reversing
They finally got out of their traffic jam
And into their garages cursing.

The opposition's hartaal was a great success
The common man praised their sagacity
And promised at the next election
To vote them into a ruling capacity.

Somewhere I am told, beside the road
That connects Bekal to Thiruvanathapuram
There exists a new shrine that is the abode
Of the God of the Traafic jaam.

Maintained by the current opposition
(Not yet become the ruling party)
For while it is not their disposition
God fearing atheists such as they be,
They scorn religious superstition
Yet, they do believe in destiny.

©Sadanand Warrier 2012

* Old CPI slogan. Quite literally, the Russians are our people, Stalin is our leader.

1. Sultan Bathery is in North Kerala, far from Thiruvananthapuram, the capital. It is actually a mispronunciation of the word 'battery'. Tipu Sultan used an unused Jain temple to place his gun battery here.

2. Thodupuhza is in central Kerala, and a bastion of the Congress party, should the opposition have had the temerity to reach it.

With humble apologies to John J Keats, Theodore S Geissel, and Kerala politics.


  1. Hehehe. Anu, Sadu is a gem. This is so much fun. It actually inspires me to finally plan a trip to Kerala - and then makes me wonder, "Really? Do you want to get stuck in all that traffic, and step into a poodle?!"

    Loved this. Thank you! :-)

  2. Mumbai is the most horrible city.Man the city stinks.The pollution,the population,the rains...yucks !! Mumbai stinks.I will never go to that city.

  3. :) Thanks for sharing Sadu's poetry. Will make traffic jaams easier to bear, I think.

  4. Sadu comes up with another hit!  The part about the liquor stores raking in the stuff on the day before the hartal - only a person who has lived in Kerala can appreciate that! This bad traffic is precisely what I am dreading, come October, but I don't know if Madras is as bad, or worse.  I have heard that Bangalore is also bad and we are going there also this time.  The trip promises to be interesting but I am afraid, grid-locked!  I am sure you are relieved to be back home. 

  5. Trichur is walkable in any direction, Madhu, so don't let our loving digs at our hometown dissuade you from making a trip there. Actually, plan a trip, do! Sometime in June-July-August next year, when I'm there? You can stay with me, and use my house as the base camp.

    'Step into a poodle' was sheer genius! I cackled so much when I read that.

  6.  I will tell him so, Batul. I know I will never look at traffic 'jaams' the same way again!

  7.  Bangalore traffic is horrible, Lalitha, and I can personally vouch for that. (So speaketh an ex-Banglorean.) Are you going to be visiting Kerala too in October?

  8. Won't June-August be sultry and rainy in Kerala? But, then - Delhi is hot and humid too, so I don't think that makes a huge difference. And I bet Kerala is waaaay more beautiful. :-) Chalo, I will think this over!

  9. When I started driving the car, I used to time regular distance to my work place by listening to an audio cassette. I would normally reach my work place in a song less than the songs on two sides of a 60-minutes cassette and while returning that one song plus another cassette would do the job.
    However, there were days when I would listen, anything from a quarter, to some time a full cassette over again, becuase of the jaam [abbreviated version of a long traffic jaam].
    Of course, after a few 'regular' repitions of this expereince, I used to carry a cassette extra over a to and fro regular quota.
    Now, possibly one DVD can do that job!!!!

  10.  Once upon a time, I could have told you exactly when the rains would come - and go. Now, they come when they please (or not, as the case may be); I had never seen sheets and sheets of rain during Onam time (Aug/Sep) but this year, that's when the raingods decided to bless us with their munificence. June was dry.

    Kerala *is* beautiful, and as I said, there are some lovely places to visit. Think about it!

  11.  :) That is the best description of the daily commute I have ever heard!

  12. Thanks for the comments folks. The pome (Ern Goon) could do with a bit of brushing up but had to get it out there for public consumption y'know.
    It ended up by having more of Kerala politics but then I do say those politics are responsible for traaffic jaams, garbage collection, hartaals, global warming, the monsoon and why Arsenal haven't won a trophy in seven years.Dustedoff you, Batul, Mr.Vaishnav should visit Kerala during hartaals. The last time I was in Kerala on hartaal day I made it from Cochin to Trichur in about 40 minutes flat which was slightly faster than the average speed of light through Kerala atmosphere (not vacuum). On an average day light crawls which is why you can't see in front of you. So on bright days we wear "cooling glasses" to get used to the brilliance.Lalitha of course seems to be an expert on liquor shops in Kerala. 'Nuff said.Cheers

  13. Super-Hit gaana Sadu!
    Sultan bathery! Wonder if it is the one near Mangalore?

  14.  Harvey, the Sultan Bathery in the 'pome' is a small town in Wayanad District. The Sultan Battery near Mangalore is a small watchtower. Both have connections to Tipu Sultan.

  15.  "On an average day light crawls which is why you can't see in front of
    you. So on bright days we wear "cooling glasses" to get used to the

    Hehehe. Hehehe.

    Thank goodness I'd finished drinking my mug of tea by the time I read this! :-)

  16. Heeheee! Cool poem! I didn't understand all of it, but it was funny! So Bombay has lots of traffic jams, huh? Then what about my horse carriage ride? >:( I want to sing "Yeh Hai Bombay Meri Jaan"!

    And whatever it is that's going on in your life, hope it gets better soon. >:D I've been telling Dustedoff about my friend, who I'm introducing to Hindi films. Heeheeeee! So much fun! Stuff's ten times more fun if there's somebody to rant to. :D I've also been pretending that my black scarf is Shammi's cummerbund in "O Haseena Zulfonwali"! (And I admittedly broke a glass, but let's not dwell on that)

    Oh yeah, I might be homeschooled soon. 'Cos the stuff in school is way too slow for me. I learnt all that stuff! Do you know how that works? (And does that also mean I can watch Kati Patang AND do schoolwork?! -squeal-)

    I've also been making progress on the Pride and Prejudice thing at bollyviewer's blog. I got the book and I was reading it in class, and I have to say I'll cast Shammi as Darcy! Yesyes! I dunno about Wickham (HE NEEDS A BETTER NAME.) yet, but I literally cheered out loud at his entry 'cos you said that he could be Dev! :DDDD And why do you say Bingley is spineless? He's okay... just needs a better name. :P

  17.  Sasha, reading comprehension fail. :) Traafic jaam is in Kerala wonly. (Not that Bombay doesn't have its fair share...)

    What's with you and breaking things? First, it was your hand, then it is a glass - Shammi and Dev have a bad effect on you...

    Homeschooled? God help the poor soul who is going to homeschool you! And no, you cannot watch Kati Patang when you are being homeschooled, unless film appreciation is part of your curriculum. Which begs the question, have you moved to the US for good? I thought you were here for your summer hols.

    I'm glad bollyviewer did *something* to advance your education. :)

  18. Oh, I am definitely an expert on the liquor shops in Kerala, considering the first word I learned to read in Malayalam was "saraayam" - since every little jhopdi on the side of the road seemed to have this sign, a bench and four or five inebriated guys lolling around!  I am also an expert on the hartals of Kerala, since I spent a few years working for the premier banking institution there, the State Bank of Travancore!  That was definitely an interesting stint!

  19.  Kerala is not on the cards for this visit, so I have asked the uncle in Kerala to make a quick trip to Madras, instead!  But Bangalore is definitely there, since I am attending a wedding there, and then we move on to Delhi, Agra, Jaipur and Ranthambhore, which is the part I am looking forward to, especially the last one!

  20.  Oops. :P Sorry. Not too good with Southern stuff. That day in geography, I pulled a fast one on the teacher! She told us to write down ten states (She assumed we would know it was US states), and then I got a little crazy and wrote down India states. Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Mahastra, Gujrat, Rajasthan, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, and a few others. HAHAHAHAHAHA. :DDD

    Awwww, they're not bad! THEY'RE AWESOME. :D Although today I was out on my bicycle (Which I finally learned how to ride!), and I started pretending it was Rajesh's "Zindagi Ek Safar" motorcycle. So I swayed from side to side and then fell off. And got a long gash on my left leg. :P And did I tell you about the time I tried to break a stick like how Rajendra did in Jhuk Gaya Aasman and got cuts all over my hands because it was too prickly?

    My grandma's gonna homeschool me! And why not?! D:< I was thinking maybe a song here, a page or two of work there, a little bit of dialogue, some reading... but it's probably for the better. Whatever I'd have learned just now would've gone out the window the second I saw Rajesh! :D -squeals again-

    But yes, I'm here for good! I kind of miss Singapore though, the food, the excitement at 4pm (Because the radio played old songs for an hour on weekdays; weekends were just nonsense) when one of Dev's songs was played, and stomping and insisting that we stay home and watch an old film. I want to go back - that day I even cried in school. But films distract me...

    And yeah, I like the book! The English is so different (although I can understand it), and today I saw a bit of the movie. New one. Mehh, the guy playing Darcy was NOT handsome. I keep picturizing Shammi as Darcy now. And somebody can be Bingley, he doesn't seem too bad!

  21. You wouldn't think so , but only yesterday I was telling my better three quarters about those poor photons being blocked by the traffic and all. They try to go forward and run up blind alleys and get trapped between all those vehicles and people and they look so tired and wan and woebegone that people pick them up and put them into little black plastic bags. Darkness is so comforting. Those bags they are called light bags, they are truly very light. The bags are opened  in the morning which is why dawn is so bright in Kerala.' Tis a sorry tale Dustedoff, but as the good Q G Murugan said, "Ve are like that wonly."

    Mind it , I say.

  22. Do tell, was your SBT office a den of vice and sin and and days and afternoons spent in bawdy revelry?

  23.  Lalitha, when and where did you work for SBT? My brother has been working there for ages; you may even have known him!

  24.  I don't know; I wonder if your gran knows what she is taking on! If I was in her place, I would put you into the strictest convent I could find, one that would not allow a whiff of cinema to get inside, until you were 18.

    By the way home schooling does not mean I was thinking maybe a song here, a page or two of work there, a little bit of dialogue, some reading....

    Sigh, You make me feel v.e.r.y old.

  25.  Hmmm, I may have to add a disclaimer here: Anything done in my pre-married days will not be disclosed!  I was in the Bank from '73 to '81, and I did stints in their Madras Main branch, Head Office in TVM, Ekm MG Rd Branch, Bangalore Main branch, and was known as Lalitha Krishnan in those glorious days.  But I don't remember any Warriers, or was his name something else?

  26. I cannot answer this question on the grounds of self-incrimination!  Seriously, though, our days and afternoons were spent looking at the books.  What we did in the evenings is another matter altogether!
    By the way, the other word that I learned to read in those early days was "kaLLu" - so does it mean I was interested in words dealing with liquor, or were those the most frequently seen words in Kerala in those days?

  27.  Good one, but who is Q G Murugan?  I am lost here.

  28. Ahem... You have forgotten your roots that had yet to grow when you got transplanted.



    more ands...


  29.  My grandma's used to me! :D She was the one who started this madness in the first place - Raj Kapoor CDs, Rajesh's DVDs, Shammi's and Dev's movies, and tuning in to the radio for old songs! (I remember, they used to play "Aankhon Hi Aankhon Mein" on the radio from time to time. One day I came back from school and I had a gut feeling it was Dev's. When the radio announcer mentioned "C.I.D.", I hit the floor so hard with my hands and cheered. But my hands hurt bad after that.)

    Aww come on! If I go to a convent, I can't pretend the coke in my glass is alcohol and go crashing around the house singing "Yeh Jo Mohabbat Hai", or annoy my music teacher by picking up an accoustic guitar and pretending to play it while singing "Baar Baar Dekho"! And I can't stay up alll night while watching movies on my iPod!

    Darn. So it's just as rigid as school? :P

  30. No, too young. :) He joined SBT in '84 or '85.

  31.  Lalitha, I think your disclaimer, and refusal to answer are your best self-guards! By the way, we Mallus say 'Charaayam' not 'Saraayam'. :))

  32.  I'm back in India last week of October. It would have been nice to meet up!

  33.  God! *I* need a drink now, and a stiff one!

  34. Will you be in Kerala for the duration of the visit?  Or can you come to Delhi, so we can meet up with DO?  Or how about coming to B'lore?  Unfortunately, I have some major stuff to do in Madras in connection with registering my Dad's property in my name and my sister's, and knowing how the bureaucracy in India functions, I fear it will take up most of my time.  How long do you plan to stay in India this time?  Hubby and sis return to the US on the 22nd of Nov, after that, I am on my own, so I have some free time.

  35.  Hmm, never heard or seen these before!  I will have to do some digging through Youtube for more episodes.  Were these commercials or a regular series?  Definitely after my coming to this country, or as you have put it, after I got transplanted!

  36.  You know, I wondered about that but couldn't remember if I had seen a cha or a sa!

  37. When you are off regular blogging, you are so good, when you come back you would be mind blowing!  My compliments on an excellent write up and Sadu's fantastic poem!

  38.  All those plans sound lovely! But, alas, I'm in India for exactly a week. It's my niece's wedding. I reach on 26/10 and leave on 3/11.

  39.  Quick Gun Murugan was originally a character developed for V TV in India in '92 (I think). They were ads for the channel, and became a massive hit. A couple of years ago, the writer/director of the series, Shashank Ghosh, extended it to make it a full-length film.

  40. Hey! I can't drink alcohol! :( Except that whiskey I told you about, but I coughed and coughed so it was no good. So I can't sing "Din Dhal Jaye" or "Hai Duniya Usiki" or anything! I'm jealous!

  41. Hey Anu... Chembukkau, Patturaickal... Even I belong to Thrissur.. So glad to see these names in the poem of a fellow blogger! And yes... the pun is really enjoyable!

  42.  Shouldn't that be more of a "poodul" rather than a "poodle"?  Just wondering.

  43.  Another Thrissurite? :) The world is truly a small place. Will pass on your message to my husband.

  44.  Will ask spouse to clarify your doubt. :)

  45. Ha Ha :) this is an awesome post - especially like the poem - had me in splits throughout!

  46. This was really really amusing Anu. Do convey my appreciation to your dear husband.
    wife house, god of traffic jams - LOL!

  47. BTW love your header. Handsome men, beautiful ladies :)

  48. Thank you. Bollyviewer's blog was the inspiration for this. 


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