Of Moscow traffic jams and smoke in your face

By Vishnu Makhijani, IANS

Moscow : Residents of Indian metros who frequently fret and fume over daily traffic logjams can take heart: it’s even worse in this Russian capital.

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Not only this. You guys back home have auto rickshaws and taxis and even commuter bus services – efficient in Mumbai and iffy in most other cities – to fall back on if you don’t feel like getting behind.

Over here, taxis are few and far between. A commuter bus service does exist – but just about. Auto rickshaws, being a third world phenomenon, are quite naturally, non-existent. There is, of course, a Metro Rail, and a pretty efficient one at that. But connectivity is still a problem.

Thus, everyone drives – to work, to play and to whatever else needs to be done. The result? The streets are choked from early morning to late at night, increasing journey times, wasting enormous amounts of petrol and contributing to frayed tempers.

Of these, the wasted petrol is of little concern to the authorities – after all, Russia sits on enormous reserves of oil.

The frayed tempers are, however, becoming a matter of concern: three people have been killed in the last three weeks in instances of what in India is termed road rage. Out here, they haven’t given it a name yet but the way things are going, they will pretty soon have to.

In Moscow, you don’t ask your hosts how far a destination is – you ask how long it’ll take to get there.

Thus, a journey of just five km could take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour – and it doesn’t really matter what time of the day one travels – unless it’s late at night or very early in the morning.


While the rest of the world heads towards a tobacco-free environment – with India even mandating grisly pictures of cancer-caused diseases on cigarette packs – Muscovites, with more than a little help from the government, seem determined to do just the opposite.

Look anywhere and you’ll see men – and a fair number of women – puffing away to gay abandon and littering the streets with cigarette stubs even though there are plenty of garbage bins around.

Smoking is permitted in hotel lobbies and restaurants and every other place where large groups of people gather and where smoking is a strict no-no in most parts of the world.

Smoking is, of course taboo inside government buildings but not outside. Thus, you can stand outside and puff away – unlike in most other countries where you can’t light up once you enter the complex.