The number of vehicles is increasing very fast in our country. Over a period of ten years, the total number of vehicles has gone up manifold and the trend continues. While it is a healthy sign of economic development, it is also creating many problems. In India, the road infrastructure has not kept pace with the increase in the traffic, resulting in the crowding of roads, particularly in big cities. Earlier, Calcutta was known for its traffic jams but now other metropolitan cities have become worse. In addition, the problem of pollution is also reaching unmanageable proportions. While legislative measures are being taken to tackle pollution, their poor implementation makes the situation worsen
day by day.
For few years I had the opportunity of living in Delhi and Calcutta. Quite often I also faced the problem of traffic jams. At times I was able to change my route or would not venture out, just to avoid traffic jams but normally they had to be faced. Once we get stuck in a traffic jam, it becomes very difficult to come out as a number of vehicles surround us and we have to follow the race. In such moments, I generally took a very amused view of the situation and compared it with the growing rat race in the society. This contemplation has taught me some valuable lessons.
In today’s materialistic world, the number of desires entertained is considered to be an important criterion of progress, and for most of us, it is the sole criterion. The increasing emphasis on consumerism is an indication of the acquisitiveness of today. Even the TV programmes are full of commercial advertisements and create the unnecessary desire to acquire more and more things. I compare this increase in the number of desires with the increasing number of vehicles on the roads. Like the number of vehicles, human desires have also increased manifold in recent times, resulting in a materialistic rat race. While the increase in the number of desires up to a certain extent and their fulfilment is a healthy sign, beyond a point they choke us materially, mentally as well as physically. It is more so when resources do not permit such an increase. This is like the road infrastructure in relation to the vehicle population. Unless the roads are widened accordingly or new roads are constructed, the increasing number of vehicles is bound to choke them. Similarly, unless our income increases proportionately or new sources of income are created, it is not possible to fulfil the increasing number of desires and they are bound to choke our resources. Comfortable living and the use of modern appliances can be quite helpful if one is able to afford them and also maintain a healthy mental attitude towards them. Such an attitude will not create the pollution of negative thoughts.
Unfortunately, this is not happening. The more we progress materially, the more we are becoming envious and jealous of each other. In the process, we are not always able to enjoy the fruits of our own progress, nor of others. Our negative thoughts keep polluting the environment and the pleasure of our acquisitions is also lost. We either take no steps to stop this mental pollution or do not act upon them. The situation is like taking legislative measures to control vehicle pollution without implementing them properly. Not many of us read good books or live in the company of wise people, who, in any case, have few followers.
It is also not possible to fulfil the increasing number of desires of all the people. In fact there are not enough resources to meet them. Unnecessary desires can be fulfilled only by a small percentage of people, thus creating disharmony. Generally, such desires cannot be met by honest means. The kind of corruption we see all around today is mainly due to unnecessary desires of the people. Even if one is able to fulfil such desires, in the final analysis, one finds them not worthwhile. By the time one realises so, it is too late and one has to endure the consequent agony, much like the situation of a person trapped in a traffic jam. He can neither move further nor change his path. All progress at that time comes to a halt.
What is the way out? The way out is to choose the correct goal, the correct path and the correct means of transport. A good number of vehicles on the road are moving without any goal, going from place to place due to restlessness. After choosing the correct goal, choose the right path. At times, the
goal is achieved quicker by taking a longer route which may be less crowded and it is not always necessary to be in the rat race. Also, do not change lanes every now and then, most traffic jams being due to such changes. The correct means of transport is also important. At times one can reach the destination quicker on foot than in a luxurious car. After all, the vehicle is just a means and not the end. Lastly, choose the correct timings. It is better to start early. Taking care of these factors, a traffic jam can be avoided to a great extent, be it on the road or in life. In that case even occasional jams can be enjoyed as they give us an opportunity to watch our own position closely.