By Dr. K. Javeed Nayeem, MD
A headline in Star of Mysore two days ago, proclaimed that those of us wishing to travel between Mysuru and Bengaluru along the new highway that is now getting ready for us, should get ready to pay anywhere between Rs. 200 to Rs. 250 as travel toll between the two cities. From the tone of the headline, I could not help feeling that rather than being a proclamation of something exciting, it was more of a warning for us to be ready to pay a rather high price for using the facility that we had all been looking forward to with much elation.
But considering the already heavy toll we are all now paying in terms of the greatly extended travel time, the strain of having to drive through erratic and almost insane traffic and the high cost of the extra fuel consumed, I am sure that paying the toll money that we will be expected to pay for using the new road, which will be an expressway, will not be considered anything unbearable by any one of us. And, when you consider the frequent agony of spending hours, being stranded in traffic snarls, as it almost invariably happens during weekends, travelling between the two cities has now almost become a nightmare.
Very often you have to do this with not-so-well family members, and young and irritated children, and sometimes also with the need to catch departing flights from Bengaluru, considering which the seemingly steep price that is on the way, will certainly not seem very steep. And, if you imagine the eventuality of having to do all this with an uncomfortably full bladder too, you will most certainly be willing to hand over your wallet itself, just to be able to stop and relieve yourself at the earliest opportunity!
Now, this seemingly silly problem of travelling on a full bladder that I am talking about, is no joke or just something illusory that is a figment of my imagination. If you look back, you’ll find that it is a very real one and something that is very often experienced in varying degrees of severity, by every one of us who undertakes road journeys across our country.
And, believe me, if you happen to be overwhelmed by it, even if you have set out to have a look at the Taj Mahal, you would prefer to completely miss it and set out to just look for a toilet first. And, on finding it, you’d be just as overwhelmed and contented too, with the outcome of your fruitful trip to the toilet as you’d be with your first glimpse of the Taj! And, believe me, both your experiences will remain memorable for the rest of your life!
Our country is really a travellers’ paradise because it has a lot more to show, even when you compare it with the world’s most popular travel destinations. But very sadly, the way we showcase it and the quality and standards of the facilities we provide to our tourists, strongly discourage re-visits to many of the places that they visit once. Although many business enterprises quickly spring up along all our busy highways and provide all other facilities like fuel stations, restaurants, coffee-shops and ice-cream parlours, purportedly to make life easy and comfortable for travellers, I cannot help feeling that the foremost motive behind all this kindness is only to enrich themselves.
I say this with so much of conviction and indignation too because I am yet to see a single wayside stopping place, especially between Mysuru and Bengaluru, that has really clean toilets and restrooms. Even every one of those places which proclaim, by erecting prominent signboards, that they have clean restrooms, quickly stop paying attention to anything but their businesses, after they pick up steam. So, all their hype of having clean restrooms soon turns out to be a very short-lived business gimmick. I am given to understand that along the recently renovated Bengaluru-Chennai highway there are restrooms where people, upon paying a prescribed fee, can make use of really clean facilities that can match the best that can be found in the rest of the developed world. There should be no reason why this model, which is said to be very popular with road users, despite the fee that some skinflints consider a little too high, cannot be replicated on our new highway too.
Years ago, I wrote in this very same column, about a then newly started business chain that maintained at all its restaurants along our highways, really clean and usable restrooms, with logged hourly maintenance. Just because of this one feature, people very often stopped there to eat when they were not hungry or to drink when they were not thirsty and I have done it too with my family! But that has now sadly become a thing of the past, thanks to unfortunate times and changing fortunes.
Hopefully, those good times will be back again soon, especially between Mysuru and Bengaluru too. But considering its progress so far, the work that is still remaining and the present pace of this work, I am rather sceptical that even though it is certain to meet its destination, this highway is unlikely to meet its rather loudly proclaimed deadline of October this year. And so, I think it is most certainly going to miss this year’s Dasara too but I would love to be proved wrong! But even if not by Dasara, this road is going to become fully operational quite soon and I hope the money we are soon going to pay as toll, does some good for us. But for this to happen, we the road users, have to be assertive and ensure that we get our money’s worth.
And, the Government on its part should be responsive enough to heed to our justified expectations and do its part in not only keeping its new road in a state of regular upkeep but also ensuring that all those who are granted licences to earn money from it, do their jobs of providing their services with quality that meets the prescribed and expected standards. Then the bite of the seemingly steep toll will not hurt anyone at all.
In fact, paying the equivalent of just about two litres of fuel as toll will not even be anything extra because we would certainly be saving more than that amount of fuel, just because of the smooth and uninterrupted flow of traffic. In my own experience, I have found that when I travel between Bengaluru and Mysuru very early in the morning or very late in the night, when the traffic is very lean, I save nearly thirty percent of fuel!
And, if it is true that the new road as proclaimed, is going to also reduce the travelling distance between the two cities, from 145 kilometres to just 117, we may actually start earning some extra money by using it! And, then it will be the time for you to ask your heart-throb… Aati kya Bengaluru!
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