The phenomenal rise of vehicular traffic in Srinagar over the past years is a true sign of the city’s progress and development as the detestable sight of pedestrians is clearly on its way out. First, this slur on modernity was denied space on pavements and footpaths by allowing their wholesale encroachment, and when, as species low down on the evolution and intelligence scale are wont to do, it failed to take the hint, in came endless lines of sleek automobiles parking themselves at fashionable angles before endless lines of fashionable stores. The mean creatures found a way round this as well by developing a knack of zig-zagging through the phalanx, but have now for long come up against a problem they can’t think a way out of, except by throwing themselves at the feet – no, the wheels – of Kashmir’s overlords.
For, the leaders’ and policy-makers’ ingenuity in giving Srinagar a metropolitan character by eradicating the scourge of pedestrians appears to have arrived at a critical stage: the impenetrable and swift stream of traffic that would have done mafia-ruled New York proud has made it well nigh impossible for this breed to “cross to the other side” on the city’s thoroughfares. Political overtones apart, here is one case of the proud planners of Srinagar having learned from the mistakes of others: they have stoutly refused to succumb to the stupidity of providing silly things like zebra crossings that have only served to encourage and prolong the survival of the pedestrian blight in other major world cities. Why spend good money on saving bad rubbish. Besides, what would those tourists-that-never-come from Europe, America and Australia think of the Chief Minister’s passion for classy and powerful SUVs if their speeding cabs had to halt for some shabby native who had the audacity to think that he had some right on the Boulevard. Third-world leaders, after all, have reputations to keep, and many Jones’s to keep up with.
Some would say that the planning rivals German thoroughness in terms of attention to detail. Extraordinary care has been taken not to have even a stray designated pedestrian crossing point in the entire, magnificently designed, city to send an unmistakable signal that Srinagar has outstripped all great metropolises in moving towards banishing the primitive act of walking from its life. Civilizations to come would find themselves in eternal debt to the city for this feat – its citizens already are to numerous institutions of instant and easy finance.