Stood at a bus stop on Hughes ("Hyoo-jis") Road yesterday afternoon, waiting to catch a bus back home. It's an extremely busy thoroughfare most times, but as we stood there it seemed to gradually become quieter and freer of traffic. And suddenly there was none. Some cops to my right, traffic stopped in the distance. A tow-truck to my left, blocking traffic from under the Kemp's Corner flyover, which itself had none.
We waited. Cop to the right advanced menacingly on a car on a side street that had stopped too close to Hughes Road. He motioned it angrily backward till it disappeared from sight.
We waited some more. 15 minutes. Two police vehicles rolled down the flyover, voice from inside one of them exhorting all of us to do something unintelligible. 5 more minutes. Three more police vehicles rolled down, another voice this time. Another several minutes and now a police vehicle by itself, the officer in the front seat motioning to the few walkers around to stop walking.
Yes, they stopped people from walking. I am not making this up.
Many more minutes still, and the sound of sirens presaged a convoy. I counted: 30 vehicles, including several buses and an ambulance and any number of black-glassed cars and several more police vehicles. Include the six that went before, makes a total of 36 vehicles.
After they disappeared around the turn heading for Babulnath, it was another 5 minutes before the police finally let traffic move again. The pleasantly empty road in front of me was quickly filled with traffic from both sides, a huge pent-up mass of cars and buses and scooters and mobikes and cycles. In the hottest part of an October day in Bombay, thousands had had to wait over half an hour in their various vehicles. You can imagine the pile-up, and probably the frustration. We had to wait another half-hour for our bus, and once we got on, it crawled through traffic for at least another 45 minutes before the snarl eased.
I did not myself see who this Extremely Important Person was who warranted such a convoy and such disruption and a halt to pedestrians. The guy next to me, however, said two words and he didn't sound pleased saying them: "Pratibha Patil."
I cannot imagine a single person on that stretch of road yesterday who felt kindly toward our President.