Thursday, March 10, 2005

Drive Down ECR & OMR

This is a true account with no changes made regarding the principal characters in the description below. To all those in Chennai who were waiting for a such a race, it does happen when you least expect it so look out ..and drive safe no race is worth it if a life is put in danger. Apologies in advance for the verbal diarrhea resulting in the rather lengthy account of this mornings drive.
Date: 10th March 2005
Time: 8:20 – 8.40 AM
Location: Chennai, the scenic East Coast Road (from now on referred to as ECR) along the beach & Old Mahabalipuram Road (from now on referred to as OMR and known as the IT corridor where all major IT companies have large development centers lining the 30 km stretch) & the Connector between ECR & OMR near Sholinganallur
Cars: 2002 Ford Ikon 1.6 – Silver - Driven by myself – 30 something Male
Maruti Zen (couldn’t tell which model/year – the classic jelly bean shaped zen) Maroon – Driven by 20 something lady!

This morning I was driving down ECR (alone) as usual on my way to work at one of the software firms on OMR …was already 20 minutes into my daily 40 minute commute. Had been driving at a sedate 45 kmph in the one usable lane out of the two available lanes on ECR. There was the usual traffic in the morning …pedestrians and cyclists in the left lane and a stream of cars/buses/vans in the right lane. I was in the right lane following the other cars …not overtaking through the left as I just wasn’t up to it. So just driving along listening to some music on Radio Mirchi generally thinking about the day ahead. There was a white tourist ambassador in front of me and a black Hyundai Elantra behind me. All driving in single file …maintaining the same speed and being generally careful. While looking in my RVMs I noticed a Zen overtaking cars behind me one by one. I could see it one moment and then it would disappear behind another car … saw this for a couple of times. Also noticed that each time this was done the driver was using the cars turn indicators! I became very curious as I usually use my indicators … but haven’t seen many others do so in Chennai. While thinking about this the Zen was at my left side … trying to overtake me ! I peer through my left window and notice the Zen was driven by an attractive lady nice features, shortish-stylish hair and wearing sunglasses. In a flash the Zen is in front of me and is preparing to overtake the Amby in front of me.My breath stopped for a second. Could this be the moment I have been waiting for since reading a bunch of Pedal to the Metal stories on of members racing the fairer sex. I was very hopeful and start to follow the Zen in the left lane. The Zen dispatches the amby in front of me without a thought and I follow it without any effort. The Elantra behind me also saw what was going on and joins the party and starts following me for a bit but I guess he was worried about his new car and dropped out soon enough falling back behind other traffic.We are now well past the densely populated areas and the traffic thins out so that the left lane is more or less empty with just a few two-wheelers in it. Now the vehicles in front of us are two college buses in the right lane fully laden with students and going at around 40 kmph. Not fast enough for the Zen which is by now close to XX Kmph. In tandem we overtake two buses from the open left lane and get into the right lane ..which by now is the only lane on the road. There isn’t any room to overtake so I follow close behind at a safe distance I should add. The road widens and as soon as it does we hit more slow moving traffic. The Zen puts on the left indicators and tries to overtake from the left but doesn’t succeed. I know the futility of overtaking on the left on this stretch as I have been driving down this road daily for the past two months and so stay in the right lane. The Zen gets an opening and pushes through ….I check to make sure it is safe to do so and follow through. Now it is just the two of us on an open road which again unfortunately has become a single lane road again. So I have no choice but to follow. We are doing around XXX Kmph by now on a good stretch of road. We are now close to reaching a small road that connects the ECR & the OMR which I have to get off ECR to take. I wonder if the Zen will continue straight down ECR or take the connector to the right towards OMR. I was hoping it would …and yes it puts on its right turn indicator and I can’t help but grin thinking that the race was still on. We turn onto the connector … but this is a very narrow rural road two lanes in parts but mostly one lane, badly paved with numerous potholes and traversed by government transport buses, college buses, lorries, cars and rickshaws not forgetting cycles and two wheelers and pedestrians. The zen was zipping ahead in front of me doing 60 on the initial well paved two lane stretch. I was caught behind a slow two wheeler who darted in the middle of the road and thought I would lose the Zen but funnily enough I catch up to her and she gets stuck behind a two wheeler and I get a chance to overtake. But at that moment I realize she had let me overtake as there was no reason for her to slow down behind a two wheeler at the left side of the road on a two lane stretch with no oncoming traffic for as far as the eye can see. I zoom ahead but sadly from that point on the road is badly paved and cant do more than 20. I finally get to the end of the connector and now I wonder where the Zen will go as I have to turn left. I put on my left turn indicator and look in my RVM and notice the Zen’s indicator showing a left turn too. My joy knows no bounds as I have another 10 km stretch on this road. I turn left and merge smartly into traffic on OMR but the Zen lags behind trying to get onto OMR. A few hundred feet forwards on OMR all traffic comes to a stop due to some van turning in the middle of the road. I notice the Zen furiously working the turn indicators trying to get ahead of cars that are slowly starting to move. She is now in the left lane again and I am in the right lane behind an Infosys staff bus that is going slowly. The bus starts moving to the left as the Infosys building is close by and it is going to stop …the driver indicates that I can overtake him and I do so …the Zen takes a bit to catch up but that was enough for me to get to XX kmph …with the Zen far back in my RVM. Of course I reach more slow moving traffic of another Infosys bus and a Maruti 800 that fill the two lanes. The Zen catches up and still persists in the left lane trying to get ahead while I stay in the right lane behind the bus. I know from past experience that the bus is going to turn left a little further on so I maintain my speed and notice the Zen get all twitchy as she cant overtake the Maruti-800 nor the bus. The bus makes a wide turn and forces all of us the 800, the Zen and me to stop till it turns. Since I was in the rightmost lane I got started back up first. In the middle of all of this I notice a white Hyundai Accent gain on us while we were recovering from the stop caused due to the bus turning left. I wasn’t about to be bested by a latecomer Accent and so I give the accelerator a light caress and soon I saw my speedometer show XXX. The Zen was in my RVM trying its best to catch up to the Accent which had by now got between us. I decided to go a little faster so I reach XXX +20 kmph and now see the Accent and the Zen both look like they have given up. And before any of you panic …this stretch of road is totally empty with absolutely no traffic and is surrounded on both sides by palm tree plantations. So it is a nice stretch with a good view ahead of the road where one can speed safely and slow down well before reaching a densely populated bus stop. Since I saw there was no contest I ease off the accelerator and let the car slow down before the stretch of road with a lot of people on it near the bus stop. Around 100 feet from the bus stop is where I get off the road and turn into my office gate …. I can see the Zen in my RVM and wonder for a moment if it will turn in behind me ..but it doesn’t so it keeps going down OMR. If this was the evening drive I would have followed ..but sadly it was the morning and I had to be in before 9 am so had to stop the fun.The Accent turns in behind me into my office and parks next to me. The driver seemed to have some lady with him so he gives me a glare and takes off without a word. Guess he was trying to show off in front of his lady friend and I spoilt things by out acclerating him. I had a lot of fun this morning and got into work with a big grin due to the adrenaline rush of the drive. I will now have to look out for a maroon Zen on ECR/OMR for an encore.

XX Double Digit Speed in Kmph that I dare not mention.
XXX - Triple Digit Speed in Kmph that I shiver to mention.

WARNING: Do not try this on any road ever. I was crazy then and have since reformed. Have not crossed XX Kmph after that.