The seeds of this endeavour were sown in the December of 1996 when I arrived in Delhi on posting to Air Headquarters. For one like me, who had until then lived in small towns, the transfer was a cultural shock. I was not used to the fast paced life of Delhi. Heavy traffic, growing heavier by the day troubled me most. It was painful travelling every day by the Air Force bus from my home in Noida to the office in Vayu Bhawan and back. It was even worse if one were driving a car. Being stuck for long hours in traffic was a routine, almost. The stretch between Outer Ring Road and Akshardham was particularly bad. The traffic jams could be kilometres long and could take in excess of an hour, at times, to clear up.
Those jams sucked, turning helplessness into a permanent emotion.
The inauguration of the new bridge across the Yamuna, and the road connecting the Ring Road and Akshardham, came as a big respite. I did not enjoy the benefits of it for long. I was posted out to the tranquil town of Tezpur.
Everything had changed by the time I returned to Delhi on posting about eight years later. More than a dozen new flyovers had come up. Infrastructure to support the Commonwealth Games was also nearing completion. Ideally, these developments should have solved the problem of hold-ups in traffic and should have provided succour to the commuters. But the respite was short-lived because Delhi and the NCR had contributed vehicles to the roads at a very high rate.
The infrastructure development fell well short of the need. Traffic snarls returned with a vengeance. They were unpredictable in terms of time and location. The choice was between accepting the situation as it were (fate) or to do something about it. I chose not to be a sorry spectator; but to be a player and to contribute my tiny bit to address the problem.
I had observed that on many occasions the trigger for a jam used to be a broken down vehicle. The recovery van used to take some time to reach the spot and remove the vehicle. Ironically, the jam caused by the broken down vehicle used to hamper its recovery. For the jam to be eased it was imperative that the vehicle be taken away to a location where it would not obstruct the traffic; and it had to be done expeditiously.
I started carrying a towrope with shackles in my car. And, whenever I came across a broken down vehicle causing traffic jam, I started towing it away to a location that would ease the traffic situation. Drivers of such vehicles are always surprised getting help from a stranger and at a time when they need it most (and expect it the least). For me the glow in their eyes is a big reward.
In the last ten years, I have towed more than a hundred vehicles to comfortable locations. In addition, I have helped others looking for assistance on the roadside. Each encounter has been a memorable experience.
Author’s Note: Some of those who were towed/ assisted by me, and some others with whom I have shared these experiences, have resolved to follow suit. Some have even started carrying contraptions (rope and shackles) to provide assistance likewise. The contagiousness of the endeavour has nudged me to write this post and the ones that follow in the Section: “O Delhi!”
Being ‘a spectator’ or ‘a player’ is a personal choice.