Monday, May 27, 2013

Thriving on Indian Roads

My husband made a statement today "Everyone meets with an accident at least once on Indian roads" He was examining the wound on my left foot to check how it was healing. Well, the statement made me think......Of all the actions that happen on Indian roads.

I have always admired the riders and drivers; it takes immense skill, strategy, tactic and nick of the time decision at every step to reach the destination safe. Why else would you think one needs to traverse an 8 successfully before getting a license? Well, traversing an 8 is just like a viva exam; it does not really prepare you for what exists on the road. So many challenges, each innovative and difficult than the ones gone by. Let me take you on a virtual ride on my "now waiting to be revived in some garage" scooter.

We all know of the infamous potholes on the roads; or rather the little roads left after all those potholes. To manuever on what is little left of road is like walking on a rope; for you never know when you gonna fall. Oh! spare those potholes; how could they not get carved out with incessant flowing sewage on the road. Thats another story altogether. There are other nuances that needs a mention.

One got to be on a constant lookout for anything exotic to spot on the road; a la spotting birds. You may find exotic animals such as dogs and cows on the road. They can either be taking a nap or just decide to cross the road. They are the brake inspectors; and they have a special right in the constitution of India - Right to Way. You and yeah you have to stop and give them the way. What the traffic signals can't do; they can. I have an interesting proposal; to train Cows and Dogs as Break Guides at signal intersection. We solve many problems here; put stray cats and gods to good use thereby saving man power and electricity. Oh oops! I forgot we have PeTA

Apart from rocks and potholes, be observant of broken coconuts, crushed lemons and broken pumpkins. These are all of religious sentimental value and are revered. Never ever drive on them; but make sure to take off your hands from handlebar to pray with both hands. And yeah, also of the strewn petals of flowers on the road; they could from a funeral. Mommy has instructed never to touch them since they are bad omen. So gently criss cross the roads so as to not touch these stuffs. See, here is where your ability to finish the 8 during driving test comes to use.

Now when at a signal; you will be just centimeters away from other vehicles and you will be surrounded by vehicles so close that you might at first not know if you can avoid nicking each other. Don't worry; you would learn to form a perimeter around you visible only you. You will know to survive without nicking and learn to avoid being nicked at. You will also learn to move cm by cm once the signal is green. This may also involve turning your handle to extreme angles if needed depending on how close the vehicle is ahead of you. You would also get used to dodging bicycles and other vehicles who are going neck in neck with you close as a shaving razor.

How the hell did I forget auto rickshaws? I've always followed an auto if I get a chance. They take the right turns, cut through the melee of vehicles and pass with élan. I just have to follow them. If you can't win over an enemy; make a pact with them ;-)

There is a bigger enemy on the road than the horrifying trucks or the evil auto rickshaws. Beware of window side passengers in buses, rickshaw mamas, cab drivers and of course your fellow 2-wheelers. You can trust the birds about their frequency of pooping but not the missiles in the form of saliva. You don't know when and from where it will land up on you but the projectile motion is properly worked out. It has no obstacles along the path of projection and there is absolutely no interference in gravity. These folks have immense confidence in their ability to spew saliva that India could have generous number of people participating in a Olympic game of Saliva Shooting. So lookout for those mouths that have a pouted look; they are not practicing to give a smooch like Kareena but they are seconds short of showering a "Aaak thoo" on you. 

And then the pressure from fellow drivers. Expect sudden brakes, sharp turns and a string of cuss words. At first, I felt so bad that I thought about it and felt guilty. Now I have learnt; the secret is this. Make a mistake; you cuss them before they do. Yell, shout; take advantage of the local language if you know and if they don't know the local language; well you have won. Show a finger; make them feel guilty. 

Finally, learn to handle it all. There are folks out there like you trying to dodge the spit, the cows and the dogs and the potholes. Just pass on the tradition! 


  1. Well. Well, “show them the middle finger?”

    I would think twice before doing that again, certainly I will hesitate. Because, I remember very well about one morning driving to the office, I showed the finger to a recalcitrant bus driver and he chased my car like a rogue elephant for a few kilometers, that I was forced to take a long detour to the office, actually fearing that he may follow me there and create a ruckus.

    In fact I remember, that I was protesting the incessant blaring of his horn.
    Manoeuvring the “8” is just a little part. The problem with Indian traffic laws and system is that there is no actual coaching on traffic regulations and what a driver should observe. There are hardly mandatory hours to be coached hands on the road.
    Then since us Indians are foreign to civic sense we pile upon the agony on the roads.
    My wife C got her license to drive and then one day when I sat with her , while she took the wheel, she was confused between the break pedal and the accelerator. It was funny and bizarre too.
    The pity is Indian driving license is a piece of rubbish outside the country. So much for our advancement!

    The bottom line, Bindu, is that we are impervious and callous to regulations and laws of our land. We believe that everything can be circumvented in India. I’m guilty too.

    1. I have never shown the finger yet Anil. After reading your story; I wouldn't dare to.

      The thing is Anil is that we adopt these rules (or lack of it) and go on. Thats the best!

  2. What your husband said is absolutely correct. Driving and to be safe on our roads is an art. The way people drive scares me and this is the precise reason, why I am not able to learn driving despite 3 attempts!
    Am still laughing at Anil's comment above!
    Hope you are better now! Take care!

  3. Driving in India is an are ,not science.
    Only way one can be safe while driving here is to be a defensive driver.

    1. Yup! said it Sir.

    2. Absolutely bang-on! It's a miracle how we get home in one piece. And yeah, driving here is not just about knowing how good you are at the wheel, but also understanding how good or bad the others on the road are with their driving skills!

    3. Yeah and so we are all masters in psychology. We rely on understanding other drivers and believe their skills on their road than ours

  4. Have you seen the movie Duel? Shows what happens when a guy overtakes another guy in the freeway. Must see. You will enjoy. FYI: This is the first movie directed by Steven Spielberg.

    1. SG,

      Havent. I think I will need some guts to watch the scene after having experienced it myself

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  6. Its a mad, mad, mad world out there in the indian roads! One of the things that makes me explode with expletives is the non-signalling or wrong signalling of the drivers. At the previous turn, they'd have signaled Right; it would blink on forever!

    1. Yup and I've always taken care to keep a distance from such vehicles because you never really know which side they would turn

  7. And B, congratulations! Top Blogger, eh? Kudos!

    1. Balan,

      I don't know from where they get my link and who they are


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