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Roads Diversified

Ever heard the song - "What if God were one of us? Just a snob like some of us,..." The other day, when this song whistled in my ears, it set me thinking. If the sign posts on the road had life, imagine what could go through its mind - "oops so many cars, so many buses, so many trucks, so many accidents, and so on..." Similarly imagine an Indian road coming to life suddenly and talking to you - "Everyone's cursing me. It isn't my fault. I am not fixed regularly and so there are so many potholes. You think I like it? I mean, I get fixed and the next day, someone is digging me and that is when I feel like shaking them off the ground. But, you guys don't see this. You just curse me. I have a heart too and it really aches. And those road humps called speed breakers - whoever came up with those? Some of them are so big that when a vehicle comes thud over me, I get hurt. But, who cares? I still carry the blame for being so!" - just like how we complain about everything. But, if roads had life and if they all met in Geneva for a Road Table Conference represented by roads from all the countries, each road would have something to say because roads do have character. No two roads of different countries are the same.

When I say I want to write about roads, are you not thinking - what about roads? For example: the roads system different countries follow. I call it the 'ulta system' and the 'seedha system' - I mean which side of the road and which side of the car each country prefers to drive on. Like I say that India follows the 'seedha system'. (Of course, I cannot call ours the ulta system after all it is 'us' I am talking about though ours should be the 'ulta system' because except for India, UK and Australia (and perhaps some other countries) the rest follow the 'ulta system' which should actually be called the 'seedha system').

Let me not say anything (more) about Indian roads as we all have known and have had enough of it.

French roads:
The roads in France have class just like their taste. The highway in France is called Autoroute like A75, A65 etc. These are toll ways and you have to pay a heavy price for driving on AutoRoute! I mean they cost a lot of money! These are two laned roads with many petrol stations and cafeterias! The directions don't just reflect AutoRoute's with numbers, they also reflect the names of the places. If you happen to drive to Paris on the AutoRoute, you will hit the Periphery. The periphery is the ring road that goes around Paris. Again there are two peripheries - the outer periphery and the inner periphery. If you are a first timer driving in Paris, it is good to drive on the periphery and take the right exit. Now this is important because, if you don't , you have to go a full circle again. While on the periphery, you will get exits to Port this and Port that but don't start wondering if you are sailing on a boat or driving on the periphery as these are just names of different places in Paris.

There are again national routes in France like N135, N340 etc. These are single laned, with all characteristics of AutoRoute without toll and therefore lesser speed limit. These cut across good countryside and you can even stop anywhere for pictures, as it is a crime to pull over in AutoRoute's without a good cause. Above all there are country roads like E11,E15 and so on. These roads run through the smallest of villages, these are not the best of roads. These roads take you to even to the remotest of the village. I don't know if I saw many petrol stations when I travelled on these roads but I definitely came across the golden arches - what else but McDonalds.

Roads in some Schengen States:
The Italian roads have style because they are mostly straight. What I mean is that these roads don't bend or curve unless they have to. This is a stark contrast to the French roads as they curve so badly. Most of these roads resemble the French roads in character as they also have tollbooths. The amazing thing about Italian roads is that they run below the mountains! I mean, the roads like to be so straight that they just cut across the mountains and not go around them with the result Italy is full of tunnels! I like the way roads have display signs for tunnels because first, it warns you of a tunnel, then you know how long it is, then the speed limit for the tunnel, then cautioning you to dim your head lights! These tunnels also have lights inside and also escape routes in case of any emergency. Take my advice not to count the number of tunnels in Italy because there are just too many of them. Of them, one amazing tunnel is between France and Italy! This tunnel is a really a long one cutting across the Alps and is roughly about 20 kms.

If you have ever dreamt of seeing BMWs, Benzs, Opels zip past then, Germany is the place you should be. Nowhere can you see so many of all these. Germany is a sheer joy to drive in. The shoulder of the German roads is not very good nor is the quality of roads, however, the speed at which you can drive is unimaginable. Actually, there used to be a time when German roads had no speed limits but times have changed since then. Today, some stretches of the roads have been identified to be sensitive and these stretches have speed limits. It is a pleasure to drive here. You will find everyone zooming by and suddenly you see a speed sign and immediately everyone slows down and as soon as you see a 'no speed limit' sign, everyone accelerates. It is like a symphony of cars! All that you need here is a German car.

As you drive to Holland, the roads are very much the same from France to Belgium to Netherlands. The roads are all two laned and speed limit is the same. But as you enter other roads to visit places, the roads seem to change. This is when you think if the Dutch like nature as much as they like cheese! Here in city and other places, there are separate roads for cyclists. They have their own parking space, driving space and signal lights! Yes, Holland is not just about Amsterdam!

Swiss roads:
The Swiss road is unlike the Swiss knife - not very popular. The Swiss roads are small and serpentine with the result you cannot zoom past in Switzerland. I think this country is better known for its trains than cars and roads! There are no toll stations except when you enter the country by road. This country offers roads for car drivers, cyclists and trekkers. Although, the country is well connected by road, it is a pleasure to drive here only if you have the time and if you are a lover of nature. The Swiss also have very strict parking rules depending on how long you have to park your vehicles. There are zones with time limits and you cannot park for more than the set time for the zone else you will be fined heavily!

English Roads:
These are very good three laned roads. They have speed limits in miles. That is about 60 miles/hr in city and 70 miles/hr in highway. The English highway is called Motorway and these connect England pretty well. They have Motorways like M4, M6, and M8. Driving in England will take you a little time for you need to understand the orientation. You should know whether you need to take M6 north or M6 south. I mean, it is like the English humour - it will take a while to understand after which it is remarkable. Well, didn't we all think Yes Primeminister was funny? Anyway, if you ever want to get lost(?) You can drive on M25 that seems to eternally go around London, the puzzle is you have to find the right exit!

So going back - "what would it be if Roads had lives? And what would happen in the event of a Road Table Conference in Geneva?" Well, for one, the agenda would be - Uniform Road System and Style - and as usual our country would be well represented with 45 member Road team attending a two-day conference. Of course, only two Roads would actually sit in the conference and other 43 Roads would study the roads in Geneva and how they can improve themselves in India!

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