Traffic jams are a part of the staple diet of the urban Indian. Many people think that traffic jams can be cooked up by anyone, anywhere. However, there are distinct differences between the ordinary street variety jam and the gourmet jam that is favoured by connoisseurs. The Mumbai traffic jam is not similar to the Kolkatta jam which again has a different flavour from the Chennai jam. Our Gurgaon jam has several unique features that set it apart from others. It is a big juicy creation that uses fresh seasonal ingredients for a stimulating feast of the senses. It is also deceptively easy to make.
Pick some roads. Since the streets here have no name so any selection of two roads that intersect each other will do. For an authentic traffic jam, select roads with 3-4 medium sized potholes. These are easily available, especially during the monsoon season. As a bonus, you may find some potholes filled with muddy water. For best results, make sure the roads have a large ditch on one side and construction activity on the other. You can also use roads which have been used for construction of the Rapid Metro which have large earth moving equipment parked permanently on them. It is the quality of roads that give our local jams their unique flavour.
Add a traffic signal. Most people in Gurgaon consider traffic signals to be shiny decorations meant to beautify the landscape.At best, they are only suggestions for appropriate behaviour on the roads. A red light indicates that you have the option but not the obligation to stop. A green light is assumed to be perpetually on. Yellow? What is that? A functional traffic signal will create an average sort of a jam. For a jam that can be featured on Master Chef, ensure that the signal is defunct. This will ensure adequate churning and stirring of the jam to release the hidden flavours and lead to a strong aftertaste. Though not commonly found, any traffic policeman is to be plucked out and removed from the signal.
Next, stuff the road with a variety of vehicles. You can use cars of all sizes ranging from the Maruti 800 to the Fortuner. For a piquant taste, insert some local buses and shared autos, the kind that stop for anyone,anywhere. To complete the filling, you may add a dash of two wheelers and a manic pedestrian who believes that he is Superman. Gently squeeze in a bunch of pigs. Ensure that the road is completely stuffed so that there are no empty spaces between the vehicles.
Now that all key ingredients are ready, stir the jam and let it simmer on low heat. Unlike jams in other parts of the world, the Gurgaon jam has a low boiling point. Within 3 minutes, you will notice the mixture bubbling up and fumes arising from the vehicles. The pungent odour of human frustration will fill the air. Vehicles from each of the four roads will vie for a safe passage. Each driver believes that he/she will be able to miraculously climb or fly over other cars and make it through to the other side. The ingredients take on a life of their own.
Now allow the jam to set. To ensure that this happens, some basic rules need to be followed.
Never, never give right of way to anyone. Any courteous, ‘your car before mine’ behavior will cause the jam to become weak and runny.
Keep cutting lanes. Chop them into fine thin slivers so that they become a shapeless mass giving the jam a nice dense texture .
Honk loudly and continuously. There is no correlation between the decibel of the horn and the movement of a preceding vehicle but the noise is very important to release all the pent up flavours in the jam.
Add to the noise by yelling at others and talking loudly on the mobile. Sprinkle some choice ‘gaalis’ for a tangy spicy note. Note: Some drivers may step out of the car and try to overpower other drivers. This could drastically increase the spice levels . It could appeal to some but could cause the jam to turn sour and unpalatable if allowed to go on for long.
If all above rules have been followed, we have a typical Gurgaon traffic jam. It is a rich filling dish by itself and one large dose of this jam is enough to last you for weeks.
This is from a collection of articles published in my Village Voice column in Times of India from 2011 – 2013.