November 8, 2005
Driving in Bangalore / India
Filed under: humor — pegasus @ 5:07 pm
For the benefit of every Tom, Dick and Harry visiting India and daringto drive on Indian roads, I am offering a few hints for survival. Theyare applicable to every place in India except Bihar, where lifeoutside a vehicle is only marginally safer.
Indian road rules broadly operate within the domain of karma where youdo your best, and leave the results to your insurance company. Thehints are as follows: Do we drive on the left or right of the road?The answer is “both”. Basically you start on the left of the road,unless it is occupied. In that case, go to the right, unless that isalso occupied. Then proceed by occupying the next available gap, as inchess. Just trust your instincts, ascertain the direction, andproceed. Adherence to road rules leads to much misery and occasionalfatality. Most drivers don’t drive, but just aim their vehicles in thegenerally intended direction.
Don’t you get discouraged or underestimate yourself except for abelief in reincarnation; the other drivers are not in any betterposition. Don’t stop at pedestrian crossings just because some foolwants to cross the road. You may do so only if you enjoy being bumpedin the back.
Pedestrians have been strictly instructed to cross only when trafficis moving slowly or has come to a dead stop because some minister isin town. Still some idiot may try to wade across, but then, let us nottalk ill of the dead.
Blowing your horn is not a sign of protest as in some countries. Wehorn to express joy, resentment, frustration, romance and bare lust(two brisk blasts),or just mobilize a dozing cow in the middle of thebazaar. Keep informative books in the glove compartment. You may readthem during traffic jams, while awaiting the chief minister’smotorcade, or waiting for the rainwater to recede when over groundtraffic meets underground drainage.
Occasionally you might see what looks like a UFO with blinking coloredlights and weird sounds emanating from within. This is an illuminatedbus, full of happy pilgrims singing bhajans. These pilgrims go atbreakneck speed, seeking contact with the Almighty,
often meeting with success.
Auto Rickshaw (Baby Taxi): The result of a collision between arickshaw and an automobile, this three-wheeled vehicle works on anexternal combustion engine that runs on a mixture of kerosene oil andcreosote. This triangular vehicle carries iron rods, gas cylinders orpassengers three times its weight and dimension, at an unspecifiedfare. After careful geometric calculations, children are folded andpacked into these auto rickshaws until some children in the peripheryare not in contact with the vehicle at all. Then their school bags arepushed into the microscopic gaps all round so those minor collisionswith other vehicles on the road cause no permanent damage. Of course,the peripheral children are charged half the fare and also learnNewton’s laws of motion enroute to school. Auto-rickshaw driversfollow the road rules depicted in the film Ben Hur, and are licensedto irritate.
Mopeds: The moped looks like an oil tin on wheels and makes noise likean electric shaver. It runs 30 miles on a teaspoon of petrol andtravels at break-bottom speed. As the sides of the road are too roughfor a ride, the moped drivers tend to drive in the middle of the road;they would rather drive under heavier vehicles instead of around themand are often “mopped” off the tarmac.
Leaning Tower of Passes: Most bus passengers are given free passes andduring rush hours, there is absolute mayhem. There are passengershanging off other passengers, who in turn hang off the railings andthe overloaded bus leans dangerously, defying laws of gravity butobeying laws of surface tension. As drivers get paid for overload (somany Rupees per kg of passenger), no questions are ever asked. Steerclear of these buses by a width of three
One-way Street: These boards are put up by traffic people to add jestin their otherwise drab lives. Don’t stick to the literal meaning andproceed in one direction. In metaphysical terms, it means that youcannot proceed in two directions at once. So drive as you like, inreverse throughout, if you are the fussy type. Least I soundhypercritical, I must add a positive point also. Rash and fast drivingin residential areas has been prevented by providing a “speedbreaker”; two for each house. This mound, incidentally, covers thewater and drainage pipes for that residence and is left untarred foreasy identification by the corporation authorities, should they wantto recover the pipe for year-end accounting.
Night driving on Indian roads can be an exhilarating experience forthose with the mental make up of Genghis Khan. In a way, it is likeplaying Russian roulette, because you do not know who amongst thedrivers is loaded. What looks like premature dawn on the horizon turnsout to be a truck attempting a speed record. On encountering it, justpull partly into the field adjoining the road until the phenomenonpasses.
Our roads do not have shoulders, but occasional boulders. Do not blinkyour lights expecting reciprocation. The only dim thing in the truckis the driver, and with the peg of illicit arrack (alcohol) he has hadat the last stop, his total cerebral functions add up to little morethan a naught. Truck drivers are the James Bonds of India, and arelicensed to kill. Often you may encounter a single powerful beam oflight about six feet above the ground. This is not a super motorbike,but a truck approaching you with a single light on, usually the leftone. It could be the right one, but never get too close toinvestigate. You may prove your point posthumously.