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Covering India

India is amongst the oldest civilizations in the world and yet, time moves quickly in this country if you actually look.

Take this example. Not too long ago in Bangalore, where I live, traffic was regulated by a traffic policeman standing at intersections waving his arms all day long.

Some years ago, as more and more motorbikes, cars and trucks piled on to the streets, the traffic policeman started waving a baton to direct the traffic.

Then came a futuristic advance. The policeman now stood on a little platform at the roundabout, manually operating mounted metal pointers to regulate cars and buses. If he wanted to allow traffic to flow right, he would raise the metal arm to point in that direction, the metal arm would be turned left if that turn was open. And so on.

Then came the traffic lights. Still, the traffic policeman was stationed in a corner operating the green and red lights depending on the flow at that particular time of the day. By this time, the pollution in the city was bad enough for him to have a piece of cloth tied across his face to (somewhat) keep off the exhaust smoke.

The latest advance, a nod to this digital age, are the traffic lights that digitally count down to the green light. It is a masterful improvement. Motorists stuck at a red light can actually ease off their horns secure in the knowledge that the green light is still 143, 142, 141… seconds away. So honking at the truck in front is futile. The traffic policeman is still lurking somewhere in the corner, dressed in a breathing mask to save his lungs from the fumes, waiting to catch an errant driver who has sped on despite the amber light turning red three seconds ago.

In India, time stands still in some ways. Yet, it can whizz by you so fast that you’ll miss something if you blink.