I grew up in southern California in the 80s. We loved neon, hairspray rock bands, MTV and – like, for sure, totally, like oh-my-god – the mall. Didn’t matter if we needed to buy anything or not, the mall was the place to hang out. I remember we used to go with a pocket full of coins (quarters to be exact) and hit the arcade for hours, which in our mall was called Flipper Flapper. It was like so totally awesome! My favourite arcade games at Flipper Flapper were Galaga, Asteroid, Ms Packman, Centipede and Frogger.
I don’t think Frogger came to India so here’s a quick overview (check out this quick video too, and listen to the sounds of the game! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9fO-YuWPSk). When you play Frogger, you are a frog who has to safety navigate two environments. The first is a motorway and the second is a river. The river is full of dangers like alligators and snakes. The road is equally challenging and full of different vehicles just waiting to run you over! The game starts out nice and easy, you can move left, right, forward and backward. The first levels are quite simple but as the game goes deeper and deeper into the levels the density of the cars, their speeds, etc increase. And towards the top levels it is a really difficult thing to actually cross the road or river without being squished flat by a car or truck or hit by a log.
Every time I cross the street or a road here in Bangalore, I actually feel like a human Frogger! Honestly, I have never seen anything like it anywhere in the world. I’m guessing that this is not unique to Bangalore because I’ve seen Froggers in Chennai and Goa too. Delhi and Bombay must be insane given how big they are but I haven’t been to those cities yet.
So what the hell happened here in India that converted everyone into Froggers? In Europe and the U.S., people use designated cross walks to cross the street. You walk down to the closest street corner, use the zebra crossing, cars stop and allow you to pass… you reach the other side with no stress, safely and in one piece. In Germany, if a car doesn’t stop when there is a pedestrian waiting at a zebra crossing they would receive a ticket if the police happened to see. And in the U.S. if the police see a pedestrian crossing the street illegally then that person will receive a ticket – this is called jaywalking, not sure why! (See jaywalking info here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jaywalking)
But in India it’s a free-for-all and the motorists appear to have the right-of-way and show very little regard for the safety of the pedestrians. Add to that the fact that the pedestrians seem to have the confidence of a super hero and powers of immortality because they cross major highways just like Frogger does. It blows my mind whenever I see someone crossing dense, fast, busy roads one lane at a time as cars, trucks and motorbikes whiz past them at super speeds. Left, right, back, forward… you have to really be “on” when you cross the street in India because one wrong step and – SQUISH – you’ll be wiped out!
The other crazy pedestrian practice that astounds me is the way that everyone here in Bangalore is forced to walk in the streets and roads because there are so few places in town with sidewalks that the road is the only place to walk. In Europe or the U.S., if you have to walk in the street or on a road, you’d stay as close as possible to the side of the street or road for safety. But here in India people walk in the road, relaxed as could be, sometimes two or three people deep without even looking at the cars jamming by. I am always so paranoid when I walk in the street that I look at the cars as I hear them approach to make sure I don’t have to jump out of the way. Yet locals don’t seem to have that same concern. People just assume that they are going to be a-okay when they are in the street. I wonder if I will ever gain that feeling of security like a local and not worry about being run over? Maybe after a couple of years of living here? Hmmmm…
I do miss the sidewalks in Barcelona and the guarantee that I can cross the road stress-free, even in the busiest peak hours of the day. Yet at the same time I LOVE the thrill of playing Frogger again after all these years… we’re just missing that “bink, bink, bink” sound to accompany us every time we step in the correct spot as encouragement to keep going but I guess that’s not gonna happen, eh?
© Angela Carson, 2011