Lucknow’s pehle aap tehzeeb is thrown to the winds by the chaotic traffic in the city. Especially in the old city, in areas like Chowk, Hussainabad, Nakhas, Thakurganj and Aminabad never ending traffic jams are the cause of much pain.
The situation is aggravated by narrow roads that are ancient and dotted with pot-holes running beside open drains. Add to these woes of commuters who must wade through squatters and road space swallowed up by encroachers.
Aminabad is one of the most important shopping and trading centres of the city but the traffic snarls on Gwyne Road and in front of Hotel Gulmarg is one nightmare. Despite a large parking garage constructed only a few years ago, most shopkeepers and shoppers alike park their vehicles in front of the shops. This leaves a narrow strip of road for commuters who invariably suffer traffic deadlocks..
“It takes me half an hour to cover a distance of five minutes from the intersection of Central Hotel till the Rocket Laundry because of the crazy way traffic is on this stretch of the road,” Nutan, a student of Aminabad’s Mahila College told The Lucknow Observer. Things worsen on the way to Hussainabad and Chowk. While Hussainabad is home to almost all major tourist attractions like historical Imambaras, Rumi Darwaza and Jama Masjid, Chowk is a shoppers delight for lovers of the world-famous Lucknawi embroidery, called chikan. But the chaotic traffic situation is definitely a damper.
Imagine a road five meter wide, with tempo drivers honking incessantly, bullock carts trying to overtake bicycles you and a stray cow on the look out for grazing grounds but also pausing to chew on pattals and donas, heaped in front of eateries and temples.
“I witness at least one major fight every second day because of the poor traffic here. There is not even one traffic control constable to be found here despite the fact that the Chowk Kotwali is on the other side of the same road,” says a local shopkeeper on terms of anonymity.
In the Daliganj area, the traffic situation is equally dismal. The roads in the area of Rakabganj is more like an excavation site with dangerous pot-holes and mountains of debris.
“The tempo drivers have created a mess on roads here. There is a lack of civic sense and there is no traffic constable to control the situation in this busy area,” says Faraz, a resident.
However the roads do improve towards Hazratganj and Gomti Nagar. Successive governments have spent crores to beautify the trans-Gomti areas where the roads are comparatively wide and smooth but the aam aadmi is forgotten while drawing the blue prints. Swanky cars are doing fine dashing on these roads but sadly there is no place for pedestrians and bicycle riders to move. Even to cross a road, a pedestrian might end up waiting several minutes on a good road in Gomti Nagar.
The madness on the city’s roads today makes citizens nostalgic for the smiling tonga wallah. People miss the gentle greeting of rickshaw pullers at the legendary Charbagh Station who had previously welcomed visitors with “huzoor rickshaw?”
Now auto drivers, reeking of tobacco, bluntly want to know “Sirjee auto?” and who are responsible for the most bumpy and perilous ride through the city.
With everyone in a rush to overtake the other, the fear is that “pehle mai’n” may very well replace the age old tradition of “pehle aap” in the city.