Once upon a time long, long ago, Delhi used to be a car city. Its wide, sprawling, tree-lined boulevards and road surface ratio that was (and is) higher than most other Indian cities, made it a city perfect to buy cars and take them out on long drives. Of course, these joy rides have now become nightmarish sojourns from and pretty much through hell. Bumper-to-bumper traffic, rage driving and venal fumes keep you company instead. Each week many of us end up adding 5-10 minutes to our commute time, and during peak hours, Delhi looks like a sea of cars or an army of ants that can hardly scurry along. Ask me. Last month, it took me 5 full hours to cover an 18 kilometre distance from Connaught Place, the heart of the city that houses old colonial buildings, government establishments and company headquarters, to my home. Along with losing patience, I also lost a bit of my love for the city that has been home for nearly 15 years. Unfortunately, the relationship is unlikely to get better with every commute becoming that much more unbearable.
Traffic experts say Delhi has nearly 2,000,000 automobiles, more than the number of cars Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai combined! And it adds a whopping 1,000 automobiles a day, every day to its congested road network that inexplicably seems to get worse every time a new flyover (overpass) opens, or a new spanking line of the metro is commissioned. We all foolishly thought these would give us reprieve. Alas, they haven’t. Often, in fact, I feel they have made things worse with diversions, road blocks and construction hubs that stall traffic even more. Delhi municipal corporation officials say preparations for the Commonwealth Games (now on a war-footing because there is such little time left, and so many deadlines missed) that India is hosting in October this year have added to traffic woes. We all know things get worse before they get better. But, can we take any more?