Getting cross with those cross streets
Just in case you've got some spare time on your hands never mind the
wasted knees - its worth it, fully worth indeed... I mean an observation
tour of Colombo's Bazaar area.
Having highlighted in this column Colombo's hell hole - Gabo's Lane
and the Pettah fish market... I think it was week before last which
outcome was a fine below zero what with a dissolved local authority that
makes no difference even when intact, the observing eye embarked on the
second leg of her tour across all of Pettah's cross streets.
You name it... its all there..... those cross streets.... First Cross
Street, Second Cross Street, Third, Fourth.... I wonder where the Fifth
is? Anyway why bother? What should bother you is that in all these cross
streets, many a nerve wracking problem is sure to cross your path.
Certainly you'll come out all very cross about what's going on there
blaming every conceivable state authority for its deplorable state.
In as much as Gabo's Lane's citizenry have learnt to put up with all
that kind of 'star class' odour the fish market and its surroundings
offer, those in these cross entities remain immuned to mobility or
movement related problems.
Sometimes running in circles, if not playing musical chairs minus the
music except those blaring horns, this writer recently came across
countless confrontation along these cross streets. Along the pavement,
if there were any, you would find all brands of mobikes parked to suit
owner convenience. Some horizontal and others vertical and a few that
were neither. The roads' both sides bore vehicles of all kinds
glistening in the noon day sun.
From road to pavement and pavement to road one has to calculate and
keep shifting bearing in mind other problems as well. Suddenly a motor
cyclist would creep in between your legs and apologise profusely - the
latest Sri Lankan tactic of wanton damage followed by a hurried apology
- the pronunciation of which would not spare the queen - 'sorry' goes as
in the vowel sound 'O'. One smart guy, a victim was heard saying,
Oyaalata sorry apita hori!
What's more, loaded handcarts even take you unawares. Aiyin venda,
aiyin venda shouts the carter a reminder to move aside and by the time
you do so, considering other confrontations, a bruised arm is all you
get from the speeding cart.
Now look, if you want to experience some neat, fine driving, here's
the place. Vehicles move at snail's pace - a hair splitting experience
for any driver. Heaven knows what he would encounter as men, women,
children, cats and dogs keep running across all of those cross streets.
Adding to the misery ,a careless motorist would at once move his parked
vehicle onto the main road quite unmindful of even oncoming vehicles.
Nevertheless, these roads offer ideal learning ground for novices at
the wheel what with all those shortcomings that necessitate constant
gear changing not found in power steering.
All this then brings to writer mind the former SSP Traffic A. M. G.
R. Lafir's uniflow traffic system operational in some parts of Colombo -
certainly a relief to those whose pet aversion of these roads were in
times of school traffic.
In that part of Colombo where too many schools are located, uniflow
though effectively operational was not all that welcome at the start. So
was it with these newly launched parking spaces - now doing remarkably
well. Wonder what has silenced this SSP now turned DIG?. Many commend
the man for a well accomplished task though a few hiccups came on at the
Also causing much unhappiness among some members of the public is the
guy's deafening silence following post elevation for they see in him a
sort of 'messiah' for Colombo's longstanding ailment - traffic, traffic
and traffic despite the fly overs, overhead bridges, underpasses and
Lafir's successful brainchild now sees people walking from car park
to their offices - a much resented task earlier on for which Lafir
himself initiated a taxi service at a Rs. 50 standard rate.
Come to think of it motorists' psyche itself has a lot to do with
traffic problems. Reluctant as we are even to walk half a bus halt, back
tracking on the walk from car park to office is not surprising. Sri
Lankan lethargy even extends to the point of some, at the drop of a hat,
even to buy a bread loaf that deposit themselves at the wheel. Any body
movement is frowned upon. Attributing it to lethargy alone wouldn't
suffice - not to forget the status mania - particularly a Sri Lankan
middle class affliction.
Considering the sordid state in these cross streets and other Pettah
related surroundings, it's time the traffic police initiated a parking
area outside the locality facilitated by a metropolitan taxi service or
still better a 'walk it all' promotion drive - a sure way of cutting
down the businessmen's lumps not to forget the yeoman service to their
wallets by way of reduced medical bills.