Yesterday I had a good (or should I say bad) life experience – Google Maps is NOT perfect – and when it comes to driving in India it is better to have prior knowledge of the route and to heed to advice.

Sunday (20th Feb 2022) evening, I was returning to Chennai from Tiruchirappalli by Grand Southern Trunk (GST). For a week now, I been reading in news and from posts in Facebook from friends that the river bridge in Palar River near Chengelpet is under repair. Traffic is allowed from Chennai outwards in the second bridge, but the traffic coming into the city using the first (older) bridge under repair is not allowed. Instead, vehicles entering Chennai are diverted after Mamandur to a village road in Meyyur, Kavithandalam and nearby, before joining Ullavur-Chengalpattu Road and then back to GST. Being a weekend (day before Monday) evening and the day after the local body elections in the state, there were thousands of vehicles piled up for miles and miles.

Before starting from Trichy, I had planned to take a right-turn near Dindivanam or Melvaruvathur to East Coast Road (ECR) towards Mamallapuram, so that I can avoid the diversion in the GST road. Unfortunately, I missed the turn and seeing government & private buses and taxis (normally a good indicator) continuing the GST road, I wrongly assumed the route was good to go. I wasted my first chance. Near Mamandur, heavy vehicles (trucks) were diverted away from GST, but cars and buses were allowed to continue, I presumed that traffic is being permitted in the GST (may be in a single lane) towards Chennai. Second chance ignored. I had my son check Google Maps for any signs of red colour for traffic delays, it was all good. Third mistake. Continuing on GST road, as I neared Chengalpattu, all vehicles were diverted to the rural road. I parked (I should not say drove) a distance of 7 to 10 kilometers for three hours (from 7.15 PM to 10.15 PM).

An Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. petrol station, Meyyur, the only one in the village road, made brisk sales serving the hundreds of cars. Men travelling in the buses and cars could be seen urinating near the houses, uncaring and disrespectful of the residents living there, but for the females the petrol station toilets were godsend. God bless the petrol bunk owner, for providing a clean and with running water restroom facility for all.

Bridges do need repair, I am sure the authorities understand the huge cost of these diversions and are doing their best to get it completed it at the earliest. In the meanwhile, since the traffic delays are going on for nearly two weeks now, I will request the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), and/or the state government to provide a few portable toilets and maintain them for the few weeks it takes for the bridge repairs.  It will not cost them much! A few local entrepreneurs can take it as a business opportunity.  Alternatively, the village council can be funded to build a few permanent toilets and rope in the women self-help groups to monitor and maintain these toilets for a charge – it can be of benefit to the villagers eventually.

#Chengelpet #palarriver #bridgerepair #nhai

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