Living over the road as I do, with Peddar Road and the Kemps Croner Flyover almost at eye-level, I have a fairly good idea of when a bandh is a success and when it is not. So, yesterday, sitting at my window, I-monitored the bandh.
The morning began in favour of the promoters of the bandh. I was not awakened to the protesting groans of old BEST buses climbing up Peddar Road and scattering diesel exhaust. There was the swish of a few cars speeding past, but not enough to disturb me in my sleep. I had, incidentally, decided to observe the bandh and was sleeping overtime.
When I finally did wake up and look out of the window, I was rewarded with the sight of a Premier Padmini carrying a lone driver in the direction of Mahalaxmi. One point against Dr. Datta Samant.
The Premier was followed by several other cars, not all in a row, but an average of two-and-a-half cars a minute, give or take half a car. A large number of these were red Marutis, but that may be because proportionately there are a large number of red Marutis on Bombay‚Äôs roads. A score for Maruti Udyog and all its dealers, no matter what a certain section of the press may say.
At the end of an hour of bandh-watching, I came to the conclusion that the taxi trade was observing the bandh totally, since not a single taxi had come on the horizon. The bandh was evidently going to be a success, I thought, silently congratulating Mr. George Fernandes. (Mr. Fernandes, I learnt this morning from Mr. Sameer Jain‚Äôs paper, was engaged in stopping trains, a pursuit in which he did not quite succeed. However, at that time I had no idea of this, since there are no trains on Peddar Road).
By the morning peak hour, meaning office hour, the traffic had decreased rather than increased. There were several police jeeps and wireless vans passing alongside my window, looking like they owned the city, which they do, at least that part of the city that is not controlled by mafia dons and other elements from the underworld.
By afternoon, scooters were venturing out on Peddar Road, drivers in crash-helmets, probably worn a protect their heads from stones. Most of Bombay seemed to have gone to bed after a heavy lunch. I would have liked to do the same, but I had decided to monitor the bandh and once I decide some thing I do it.
Even the number of police jeeps had lessened. A couple of Fiats went by as the afternoon advanced, a station-wagon from a consulate, a consulate car. A lot of people were walking on the road, but they did not count, since Mr. Bal Thackeray allows people to walk on the roads during bandhs, and being a fair person, he allows both Maharashtrians and non-Maharashtrians to walk on the roads.
By early evening, of course, the bandh had ended, and the red Marutis were back on Peddar Road. The bandh had ended.
Then, late in the evening, an Ambasador came tossing down the road and banged into the solid stone walls of the Woodlands building opposite. The driver was thrown out, unconscious, probably killed. And I thought to myself, if only Mr. Fernandes had continued the bandh for a few more hours, this would not have happened.