I have been living in Karachi for 15 years now. Most of the people here are way more practical, sensible and intellectually better than others cities which has had me swayed a lot of times. But they complain of tension a lot. Recently I have started having that too. How? Karachi’s Traffic, oh yell ya. Whether I am driving a car or riding my bike around the city, the rowdiness of Karachi’s traffic has sent my tension levels way up. So I tried distressing the stress by finding the fun side of all that traffic issues. That had made me more vigilant rather than being irked.

(Warning: this is going to be a long post.)

There is an old joke “When a famous mountaineer was asked why he wanted to climb Nang Parbat, his answer was brief – “Because it is there”. Same way if you ask any Karachite, why he tootles the horn, he would most probably reply the same.” Karachi’s roads are getting filled with new cars every day, all type of cars, big small, medium, and the remaining portion is filled by us bikers. Mostly the big cars’ owners are confused, concerning traffic? Na, they are confused if they have bought road or the car. Traffic in Karachi makes you having a firm belief that” there is a God up somewhere and He is “Pro-karachite”, with traffic continuing to move even after the lights have gone red for one side and the traffic from the other side would start moving before their light has turned green. Still there are no accidents.

That’s just doesn’t end here. Karachi has got the greatest acrobats out there on roads, want to know how? Well look around, all these drivers talking on cellphones, all the drivers talking on the mobile, blowing the horn, Thrashing the traffic signals, cursing the motorists, avoiding the pot holes and people doing the walk on roads just to go to God knows where, all at the same time while chewing the pan too and spitting on the roads, because they want to make the roads rangeen. The only time traffic lights are being properly followed when there is a tulla nearby, and you don’t want to give him chai pani ka kharcha.

A normal traffic situation on I I Chundigarh road during peak hours

A normal traffic situation on I I Chundigarh road during peak hours

But there are times when you actually want to be a good citizen and stop at signal and suddenly all the traffic behind you stops too. Is it a good citizen day today? Naaa, they thought you have spotted a traffic sergeant which they must have missed. Honking after the signal turns green is considered Holy, and who doesn’t want to be religious on this. Oh yes, most of the times we don’t care for ambulances, why would we? After all we are a small country with billion people. We normally calculate the distance in time instead of Km/Miles, 5 minutes by walk, half an hour on car/bike.

Needless to say, none of what I have written implies that we should disregard traffic rules, etc. Its merely one possible perspective of the situation. Till the day comes when laws are strictly enforced, hopefully this perspective will help in safer and more peaceful driving.

night view of traffic in Karachi

night view of traffic in Karachi

That a fundamental concept behind surviving on Indian roads is communication. This communication is in the form of indicators, honks, a flicker of brake lights, a slight turn of the front wheel, vague gestures some which are supposedly hand signals, a slight tilt of the head or a flick of the wrist saying “you go ahead” or “wait a sec”, a look at each other’s eyes, facial expression… these things are so subtle that we take them for granted. Yet I find them incredibly beautiful, I have never seen such delicate communique in any other country’s traffic

So to summarize:

  • Before doing anything (turning/stopping, etc.), let people around you know in some way.
  • Sense what other people are going to do, not just depending on their explicit signals, but on more subtle ones. For example, an auto going slowly wanting to stop: If you are lucky, he might care to stick a finger out for a brief moment to show his intent. At other times, the very presence of a pedestrian standing idly on the footpath could imply that he is going to stop abruptly. This is just one example, there are endless others and can never be voiced, because they are entirely situation dependent.Keep on singing : Babuuooo smjhoo Isharey,, Horn pukareyy…. Pum pum.

Have a safe driving .

A normal day on busy Karachi streets with massive traffic

A normal day on busy Karachi streets with massive traffic flowing in from all sides.