Updated: Feb 21, 2019
If you’ve ever driven the roads of India after living in the States, you will certainly feel uncomfortable at first; the horns and close proximity of vehicles will surely startle you if the children on motorcycles without helmets do not. However there’s one particular nuance about Indian travel that has stuck with me more than everything else. The speed bumps. Speed bumps are everywhere. Every road from side streets to interstate highways is littered with asphalt lumps. Sure I get a drive through or a Walmart parking lot having these pesky obstacles, but to be so omnipresent on virtually all roads throughout Bangalore, I’m at a loss.
Is there really that big of a problem with speeding? Why don’t they deploy highway patrol to fine speeders, generating a consistent source of revenue for the police. This would eliminate the need to bribe unassuming Uber drivers (for no crime whatsoever I might add). If speed was enforced, these pesky lumps of asphalt slowing down the efficiency of ALL traffic rather than the few that choose to speed might not be necessary. Makes sense to me. I’ve bantered with my colleague Henry many times about this, but the conversation seems to peter out due to a mutual lack of understanding. It leaves us mildly angry and confused. I find myself confused and frustrated with many of the realities I’ve seen in India, and it’s almost as if speed-bumps are a tangible symbol to many larger, more dynamic, issues. Firstly, on the broader topic of rainwater harvesting throughout Bangalore, government mandates have required all buildings with adequate roof space to harvest rain. Yet 80,000 buildings in this city do not do that. Why? A complex political battle combined with extremely cheap water prices has made widespread enforcement nearly impossible. It reminds me of a huge bus gaining momentum and potential, only to slow down to 5 mph and go over a speed bump before accelerating back to cruising speed. Secondly, when it comes to pricing of drinking water, the wealthiest are connected to city supplies and pay next to nothing, while the poorest don’t have a centralized supply and must pay 10 times the price for tanker water. This makes no sense, and is certainly a speed bump the city must overcome. Lastly, there’s the inequality to water access. One of the leading factors that gets you not just access to groundwater, but also water rights, is land. People who own more land get more water. However deeply rooted disparities prevent women and lower caste individuals from owning land, leaving them at even more of a disadvantage than they already were. That’s a big speed bump to get over.
Fortunately though, one thing about speed bumps is that if you’re alert and paying attention, they don’t break your car, they just slow it down from achieving its overarching goal. So these large issues I’ve just mentioned are similar in a way, they are not impossible to go through, or an end all situation. They’ll merely slow down the city from achieving water security for its citizens. But I assure you that after slowing down to overcome these bumps, there is a large smooth highway for Bangalore to travel in the future. But for now, the city must stay alert and slow down to handle these speed checks, or else serious permanent damage may be done.