Friday, May 30, 2008

Jumping Lights - A Consulting Perspective

*Dedicated to Surya Kurosaami aka Kuro - who was longing for such analysis

It was a bright 1p.m Delhi afternoon. The roads shimmered in the sun. I slowed down to a stop at a junction. I was following the law with pride. I held my head high, even though it was getting cooked inside my helmet (read about my special helmet here). A bike passed next to me, standing for merely a fraction. He looked left and right as prescribed in books and jumped ahead. I stared in anger. Some others followed his example. His size turned smaller and smaller, till he merged with the azure sky. Eventually, I dribbled ahead with the remaining traffic.

This is the piteous world of the law-abiding citizens. We roast and simmer, getting garnished with dust and vehicle smoke; While the zippers and zappers are a step ahead, probably enjoying a chilled drink at home before we are halfway through our treacherous route.

Is there no way out?
Yes there is. I managed to switch to the group of outlaws. It ain't easy. But I'll show you how.

Two Checks Before Considering a Jump

Gaadi mein dum hai ? A 60cc moped isn't the best vehicle to try such antics. A simple test - if a rickshaw can inch ahead of you at crossings, then your vehicle isn't meant for this Delhi Daredevil activity. In those moped days, I swallowed my pride, smiled at the rickshawaala and eventually cruised ahead. I've never zipped, zapped or overtaken many till recently. Bikes changed my outlook towards life. Read ahead, and it'll change yours too!

Look out for the friendly neighbourhood policemen. Even if you see no evil men policing a crossing, they may be just around the corner. You've to build your database over time, understanding nooks and special hiding places for thullas. Some crossings will be manned, while others will be left free for the rookie jumpers to train themselves. This is why it's very important to make sure you aren't dressed funny. On one of my rookie days at Lucknow, I found myself on a Scooty. There we were, Pritu and I, cruising on an average Lucknow road, with the driver wearing a red helmet. If we had on board extra monkeys doing headstands, it wouldn't have aroused additional interest. The thulla didn't even wave hard to stop us. We lost some money, pride and a crucial campus vehicle account. Miss Nandu didn't oblige us after that. (No Pritu is not a female, and Yes the helmet was really bright red. Check this mugshot for proof)

Key Competitors

Pedestrians - You may have planned your timing and speed. The route may be clear except for those odd people. But they can ruin it all. They have a bhramaastra - an extended flexed hand which unfortunately all motorized vehicles have to accede to. Most of them are fearless, occasionally hell bent on colliding with your vehicle. Beware.

The Rickshaw - Like the hair and tortoise race, a rickshaw will start early, move consistently and perfect his timing. At the moment when you are ready to cut-maaro, a rickshaw will lurch forward, burdened by multiple passengers. The ignorant rickshaw puller obviously shows no understanding of traffic laws. But his literate passengers too will show no vexation at being drawn into a possible collision! In those few seconds of obstruction, you may lose your slim time gap for jumping ahead.

Of course your most serious competitors will be the other vehicles.

Plan Your Strategy

Inspired by the BCG Matrix, I've added some animals of my choice.
Makhi - Sticky behaviour

When few have a strong drive to skip the light, then the ones in minority will have to feed off each other. Vehicles will eye one another and slowly gather at the road periphery. If a critical mass is reached, they will lurch ahead and cross over. If you join this group at the right moment, you'll safely make it. Quickly the next makhi collection will began to form at the same spot. And repeat.

Chameleon - Tentative Steps

Traffic during siesta hours will show this behaviour. Very few vehicles will gather at the crossing. They'll be too lazy to move ahead. Drivers usually ignore one another and do their own thing. If you find yourself in such a situation, you are pretty much free to move ahead. Of course, laziness will seep into you and you may not finish your thought.....

Leopard - Race Ahead

This is a no brainer. No one to stop you (except a possible thulla). Move on. Zip ahead.

Snake - Hiss and Slither
Traffic from all directions will attempt to cross before the other. Its pure brinkmanship. In the limited central space, the other vehicle will aim to occupy unwarranted space as much as you will. You'll have to assess your opponent well and break the weak ones. The strong ones will forge ahead. Assuming you succeed at this, you'll eventually find a meandering path amidst honking traffic. Avoid making eye contact, because out here tempers will run quite high - Looks Can Kill You!

There are two simple strategies to attempt the actual jump.

1. The Green-Red Chasm

Traffic lights, especially in the NCR area, have a LED timer - which in loud red digits indicates the time left for a signal change. These indicators were meant to calm the drivers, to enjoy the minute or two before they could proceed ahead. Well for most of us, its a rather painful countdown of impatience. Those ending 10 seconds our brain screams, "Look you stupid machine there are no vehicles there! Can you speed it up!!" Unfortunately, the LED counter is not very fluent in telepathy english, nor does its stiff neck notice the lack of adjacent traffic. The preceding lane gapes blankly while your lane traffic growls.

Its at this moment that the whole traffic edges forward - its a massive spectacular group-think "Look I know we shouldn't be moving ahead. But as long as WE ALL are inching ahead, its ok I guess."

Sieze this moment, and zip ahead.

2. Tag Along
For every stupid person, there's always another waiting to beat his record. As you pump up your accelerator and prepare yourself for a leap, you'd have unintentionally set off a ripple of unease. A pliant biker, who had no malice towards the law and its kin, will mimic your behaviour. This illegal energy seeps through thick windows too! Cars, SUVs and even rickshaws will smell your evil intent. Once the army is ready to move ahead, the best vehicles to tag with are the Qualis and the Taveras. These call centre rickshaws drive so rashly, that your gentle desire will appear almost logical. As they bully their way through the incoming traffic, let them bear all the glowering looks and abuses. Stick by their side and reach the other end safely.

whatever you do, you should never back out. Because you surely know what such people are called in traffic lingo.

A Chakka!

No. not really. But its something equivalent. You can't ever attempt to jump the light and get stuck in between. Once you head out there, there's no way back. As you race ahead, the ones left behind will gape and think about your bravery. If you join this cult, the lawful citizens may jeer at you, mock your actions. But remember, they are simple mortals. We are the men of steel. They have to be concerned about merely one lane. We have to observe, judge and tackle vehicles of lanes from 3 directions.

Jumping lights would have been a noble and revered skill....had it not been illegal and stupid.
Drive Safely :)

7 comments:

  1. Iyer back to his awesome non-marketing form! :D

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  2. I witness this daily and from now I'll remember this hilarious n "mast" post!!

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  3. I think it is well-written but somehow, it has been quite a while since I appreciated written text.

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  4. wow iyer u r at ur satiric best and love pritu's pic

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  5. That was too good!

    Brilliant analysis.

    Extremely hilarious!

    (esp. loved the classification - makhi, snake etc.)

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  6. Good lord ! i read ur blog after almost two years. Man, u have made some progress. i felt like reading a top consultant's analysis for free.

    Great Job dear robot.

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