Had my Dadu been an air force pilot, this is how he would have reacted on that day when we had our first encounter with this apparition from hell. I was eight then. We were driving along at a jolly pace when Dadu suddenly braked sharply and the car hit something low and solid. Thanks to my being a kid, my interview with the car ceiling did not quite reach the kissing stage. My grandmother was not quite as fortunate and Dadu had to bear the brunt of her anger. It was then that Dadu coined the term, one which I am inclined to patent, the car-breaker, for it was no ordinary speed breaker that had made its presence thus felt. It was a creation about two-thirds the height of an ordinary speed breaker but one tenth its width.
The effect of the car breaker was and is devastating. Cars moving along at 60 kmph drop to 6 kmph before you can say ‘What did I do to deserve this?’ In fact, I believe it has a connection with the advent of power brakes in every car in India. Anyway, the word I used is devastating. You can see its awesomeness in the shards of glass that litter the front and back of every car- breaker; these are usually remnants of doomed tail lights but it may not always be restricted to that.
The car breaker (CB) has no ideal speed to drive over it, none at all. I have tried it at 50 with terrible results. I have tried it at 30 with terrible results. Only at 10 did I note an improvement. However, the rapid deceleration and subsequent acceleration of the car proved nauseating and the jolt became almost a pleasing option.
In fact even the casual walker has sometimes felt the effects of this particularly efficient tripper.
A variant of this work of art has multiple tomb-like structures arrayed in a series. The effect is similar to that of sailing aboard a ship soon to be ship wrecked or riding a dromedary camel that has been taking tips from a kangaroo.
Following the caste system
Whether we like it or not, India is the last of caste and speed breakers too follow it. The width of the speed breaker is inversely proportional to the width of the road. The larger, wider, gentler speed breakers are allocated to the bigger cities of India. Their ostentatious white coat of paint mocked at their lesser cousins in smaller cities and towns. It was only natural for the oppressed classes to strike back. The CB is the champion of the lower class and has been unleashed with vengeance in the smaller cities in India. It acts as the ultimate class leveler. It is so cheap and easy to build that many homes now own one CB on the doorstep instead of a pet dog. It makes traffic stop for you. Most importantly, it destroys rich people’s cars, especially the imported ones having low road clearance.
India is the land of jugaad. Responding to this new threat was necessary for the law-abiding roadizens of this country. So let us jump to the manoeuvring techniques for car breakers.
Technique #1 The lesser Evil: The vehicle makes contact with the lowest point of the CB which due to some queer construction technique is usually at the sides. There may initially be no difference between the heights of this point and of other points but soon enough, we note a significant depression at this point. The point becomes points and victory is attained.
Technique #2 The Road Gully: The ingenious scooterist not only skips the CB but the road as well. He conducts a deft manoeuvre of moving to the left of the CB and emerging unscathed by moving back to the road on the other side. The car-wallah is at least partially able to execute this as well. Soon, the place beside the CB becomes a neat gully. Be warned, the road gully can turn out to be a road ditch in the monsoons.
Technique #3 Seek and Destroy: By far the most effective of the techniques, this seeks the source of the trouble and removes it. Sections of the car breaker are removed or destroyed producing large gaps which are then used as passage.
Technique #4 Stiff Upper Lip: Remember your ancestors who stood up bravely to face the iniquities of life and charge the enemy. It has the advantage of being the fastest of the techniques but the disadvantage of being the most painful. This one is for the wealthier lot who look for excuses to buy a car.
In spite of these brilliant tactics, the shards of glass thus continue to serve their decorative function as a white carpet ahead of the CB, the reason being that their simultaneous use has the side effect of causing violent deadlocks. So heed the warning, when you hear bandit…car breaker… 12 o’ clock… level…closing!!
12 o’ clock means directly in front. Also called bullseye. Level means level i.e same altitude.
All photographs have been clicked by yours truly.