The Culture of Roadblocks and Cutting Corners

With increasing numbers of students with motorcycles and faculty members with cars, IIT wanted to mark a core academic area as out of bounds for cars, scooters, and motorcycles; allowing only pedestrians and bicyclists. In a literate and civilized country, a sign saying PEDESTRIANS AND CYCLISTS ONLY would be adequate. Not in India, where, even inside IIT, a large fraction of people cannot read, and, irrespective of literacy, no one is in the habit of following instructions. Therefore it was necessary for IIT to put up barricades.

The barricades could have been designed in many ways, but we have an eye for the ugly. Observe the H-shape and the meaningless chains above: if there is one rigid bar at the bottom, it would be much simpler and cheaper to just weld three horizontal bars. But why is one piece sticking out like a sore thumb?

You see, the vertical tubes are inserted into slightly larger tubes embedded in the ground. Thanks to current Indian standards of craftsmanship, the alignment is never quite right. Straight lines, parallel lines, right angles and perfect circles elude all but the most highly-paid contractors in Mumbai. Moreover, the tubes rust, soon making it impossible to lower some of the barriers to their planned position. Needless to say no two barriers have the same dimensions.

Rumor has it that the barricades were designed to let through bicycles. (There was no official notice about these barricades.) But as you can see, even the shortest handle-bars do not pass through the gap. In some places the handlebar barely clears the caps, in most places, they get stuck. The barriers never had metal primer applied below the cheap enamel paint. You can see the paint peeling off all over within a year of deployment, not only where evil bicyclists like me were brushing past, but also the top cap where there is at worst palm contact.

Not all cyclists are in favor of getting their knuckles bruised trying to navigate past these barriers. They just cut corners, a term that should have been invented and copyrighted in India! The final result of the exercise is an ugly artifact and destruction of some grass, with success at stopping cars but little else. You still routinely have to negotiate with bulls larger than the average Korean---oops---Indian tinbox car.