One morning I had to go to the Swiss Embassy to apply for our visas for the forthcoming trip to <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-comffice:smarttags" /><st1lace>Europe</st1lace>. RP was busy with audits, so I decided to do the job.The distance from my house in Sharjah to the Trade Centre in <st1:City><st1lace>Dubai</st1lace></st1:City> is about 20 km. The previous week we had gone to the Italian embassy leaving home at <st1:time Minute="15" Hour="7">7.15 am</st1:time> and reaching around 9.15. But that morning had been rather foggy, so delays and accidents were on the card! I decided to leave home at 7.20 and managed to get a cab by 7.30 a rare occurrence for me. The cab was a Toyota Sienna run by City Taxi and the driver was Pushtu speaking Pakistani. I could virtually see him smack his lips in glee when I mentioned <st1:City><st1lace>Dubai</st1lace></st1:City>, so when he asked me which route I wanted, I said, ‘Through the tunnel.’ And added as an after thought, 'The route that will cost me the least.' which he pretended not to hear. All was fine till we approached the <st1lace><st1laceName>Sharjah</st1laceName><st1laceType>College</st1laceType></st1lace> round- about. From as far back as 400 meters, the car started crawling…still it was moving. The traffic lights thankfully were on. When we were just about to enter the R/A, the madness started. The platoon of vehicles that had managed to move just before us were all stalled and the R/A, was choked on all three sides… did I say three? To my left, the fourth side also filled up. I just looked at the 40 to 50 cars in a circle each trying to butt into whatever gap that opened at the slightest of movement. The driver told me there was no way we were going to make it around the circle, so he’d take the <st1:Street><st1:address>Al Mulla Plaza Road</st1:address></st1:Street> instead. By then the time was 7.45 and we were 2.5 km from our starting point. The meter already showed Dhs.17. Cab drivers of the UAE hate waiting. Give them an inch, they’ll take an ell…of a lot of space… pardon the pun… but it does help to have a sense of humour when you are driving in Sharjah!) and my cabbie was no different. The moment he got a gap of about two and a half inches, he nosedived into it and surged towards Sahara Mall en route <st1:City><st1lace>Dubai</st1lace></st1:City>. Soon we joined the hundreds of cars that were moving…er…crawling…nope…inching towards Al Mulla Plaza. As the car was literally doing 9 km p h, I took out Jeffrey Archer’s ‘Prison Diary part 3, Heaven’ and settled down to finish the 287 pages left . The driver obviously didn’t approve of Archer as he thrust the day’s copy of Emirates Post at me. I accepted it. Sigh… At the moment I was at his mercy… I told him to try and get me to the Trade Centre before 9 O’ Clock, as I had an appointment then. He said, Insha Allah! That is the most poignant comment anybody could make at the moment! I suppose during the morning rush hours the buck stops up there! I flicked through the paper, I read about the best and worst dresses worn by stars on the Oscar night, I mentally did the sudoku and the crossword and flipped through the sports section. By the time I finished reading the tabloid, we had just managed to move 30 meters. It was 8.15. We were a stone’s throw away from Al Mulla… But the problem was that the stone was the size of a a boulder that would have made Hercules cry ‘Mommy!’ and the distance seemed like to the edge of the earth. We crawled along at a speed of say, 9 to 10 kmph…which I suppose was lucky; there are days when the cars don’t move at all! I stole a quick glance at the meter. YIKES! Dhs. 26. To relieve my mind of the tension, I looked out of the window and suddenly realized there was more entertainment outside than inside the confines of the car! Anyway I was going to pay through my nose, So I might as well enjoy the fun I thought, and settled down to watch what the rest of the world was doing. To my left I could see a family in the middle of a blazing row. The husband was gesticulating wildly and the wife was yelling. Pity I don’t understand Arabic, or I could have entertained you with some choice dialogues. There was someone at the back with whom the lady was sharing most of the hot words. Kids? Mother in law? Can’t see… as the window is up. The man caught between the row inside and the unmoving rows outside, banged on the steering wheel. While they were busy unravelling some domestic knots, my cabbie deftly nosed into their lane, and the man honked in anger. Well, we had intruded, so it was time to put them and their fight behind us and move on…! To my right there was a real fight hotting up. There are 6 lanes officially here, but as I counted I could see 8 vehicles spanning the width of the road. Some were in between two lanes. An Echo tried to overtake a Mazda 6 and there started a battle for supremacy. Watching those guys, I felt they really must have grown up playing video games like Road Rash… Each time the Echo tried to draw ahead, the Mazda sped up to match the other and we had a stalemate there. I thought the Mazda6 was a bully…but then again I was just waiting for the ‘biter- bit syndrome’ to set in. He would come across a <st1:Street><st1:address>4 Wheel Drive</st1:address></st1:Street> to bully him! That’s what normally happens. The bullies are either the big brutes- the Pajeros, Range Rovers, The Pathfinders and their ilk or the middle class ‘keeping up with the joneses’ like the Sunny bullying a Kia, Lancer at loggerheads with a Polo. The Merc and BMW saloons just snootily cruise by, not drawn into such disorderly behaviour… ( I have a feeling they are scared of getting bruised…costly injuries…so, stay away from any fracas!) While we were doing fine impersonations of the migrating sea turtles, on the other side of the divider cars whizzed past us at an enviable speed towards Sharjah. And there were also the thorns in our cramped flesh… the smarties on bikes who whirred past rudely weaving and threading among the lanes while we were cooling our heels! Sour grapes! The car entered the Al Mulla tunnel. Thanks to the fighters, I hadn’t noticed. I noticed now the meter read Dhs. 33.50. Heart skipped a beat for my poor purse. The car picked up speed. We were doing 12 kmph now… I turned towards the world outside again. A guy in a Camry was picking his nose. YUK! Felt like telling him off. But it seemed to be the right time to pursue one’s hobbies. And pursue he did with his golden ring, watch-strap and spectacle frame glowering at me for gawking! ‘Gross’, I thought but don’t realize that in about 10 minutes, I was going to see a fellow in a Honda Civic dig out leftover breakfast from the depths of his mouth… Wished I had had my camera with me! It was 8.40 and the cabbie was richer by Dhs. 36.75. I had been noticing subconsciously, a black Suzuki Grand Vitara right in front of us all this while. My cabbie and he seemed to be very brotherly… Now an Advantage Taxi butted in between us. As I watched, the cabbie changed lanes again and again, generally being a pest! People were getting tired of his intrusive behaviour and gesticulated rudely…and honked and called out to him… all of which bounced off his Camry! A Jeep cut in front of us and the Suzuki sensed that we had been separated for good, changed lane and wais soon lost in the teeming wilderness of vehicles. 8.50 a m. 104.4 FM was airing lyricist Jaydev’s film songs…and the one playing was “Kabbhi khud pe kabhi haalaath pe ronaa aayaa…” I peeked at the meter - Dhs. 43.75. Exactly my sentiments, I muttered and like the erstwhile actor Dev Anand (?), I mouthed the song to relieve my pain! We cleared the <st1lace><st1laceName>Garhoud</st1laceName><st1laceType>Bridge</st1laceType></st1lace> at 8.52 and soon sped past Wafi @ 90 kmph. My spirits perked up with the car’s speed. Finally, exactly at 8.58 the cabbie pulled up in front of the Trade Centre. My purse got emptier by Dhs.53. Epilogue: I finished my work at the Swiss embassy around 10 a m. Managed to get a taxi to Sharjah through sheer cheek and sleight. ( <st1:City><st1lace>Dubai</st1lace></st1:City> cabbies are even more obnoxious; they refuse fares to Sharjah.) The sentry at the Trade Centre entrance advised me to first get into the cab and give my destination only after the cabbie has started moving! That way, they can’t refuse. Having been rejected by the first Dubai Transport fellow, I tried this new gimmick with the Cars Taxi. The cabbie said something like Phsawh! When I said,’Sharjah.’ I chose not to hear it. It was 10 .15 a.m. The trip back to Sharjah was as follows: Speed….zooom….change lane…. Whizzzzzzzzz…. Cruise in fast lane….change lane…speed…. And at 10.30 I am home and I paid Dhs.35. Compared to the 1 ½ hour ordeal in the morning, the journey was not worth writing home about! The very thought that I had to return to the Swiss embassy in a couple of days’ time, to collect the visas, made me shudder. I decided to take a book to record my observations, and a camera for those candid shots…! After all, reading Jeffrey Archer’s Prison Diary should give me some pointers!