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Friday, 6 August, 2010

Driving in India - Old, but gold!

Driving in India!

Old, but gold!

Read on:

Driving in India For the benefit of every Tom, Dick and Harry visiting India
and daring to drive on Indian roads, I am offering a few hints for survival.
They are applicable to every place in India except Bihar, where life outside a vehicle
is only marginally safer.

Indian road rules broadly operate within the domain of karma where you do your
best, and leave the results to your insurance company. The hints 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 is also
occupied. Then proceed by occupying the next available gap, as in chess. Just
trust your instincts, ascertain the direction, and proceed. Adherence to road
rules leads to much misery and occasional fatality. Most drivers don't drive,
but just aim their vehicles in the intended direction.

Don't stop at pedestrian crossings just because some fool wants to cross the
road. You may do so only if you enjoy being bumped in the back.

Blowing your horn is not a sign of protest as in some countries. We horn to
express joy, resentment, frustration, romance and bare lust (two brisk blasts),
or, just mobilize a dozing cow in the middle of the bazaar.

Keep informative books in the glove compartment. You may read them during
traffic jams, while awaiting the chief minister's motorcade, or waiting for the
rain waters to recede when over ground traffic meets underground drainage.

Occasionally you might see what looks like a UFO with blinking colored lights
and weird sounds emanating from within. This is an illuminated bus, full of
happy pilgrims singing bhajans. These pilgrims go at breakneck speed, seeking
contact with the Almighty, often meeting with success.

Auto Rickshaw (Baby Taxi): The result of a collision between a rickshaw and an
automobile, this three-wheeled vehicle works on an external combustion engine
that runs on a mixture of kerosene oil and creosote. This triangular vehicle
carries iron rods, gas cylinders or passengers three times its weight and
dimension, at an unspecified fare. After careful geometric calculations,
children are folded and packed into these auto rickshaws until some children in
the periphery are not in contact with the vehicle at all. Then their school bags
are pushed into the microscopic gaps all round so those minor collisions with
other vehicles on the road cause no permanent damage. Of course, the peripheral
children are charged half the fare and also learn Newton's laws of motion en
route to school. Auto-rickshaw drivers follow the road rules depicted in the
film Ben Hur, and are licensed to irritate.

Mopeds: The moped looks like an oil tin on wheels and makes noise like an
electric shaver. It runs 30 miles on a teaspoon of petrol and travels at break-bottom
speed. As the sides of the road are too rough for a ride, the moped drivers
tend to drive in the middle of the road; they would rather drive under heavier
vehicles instead of around them and are often "mopped" off the
tarmac.

Leaning Tower of Passes: Most bus passengers are given free passes and during
rush hours, there is absolute mayhem. There are passengers hanging off other
passengers, who in turn hang off the railings and the overloaded bus leans
dangerously, defying laws of gravity but obeying laws of surface tension. As
drivers get paid for overload (so many Rupees per kg of passenger), no
questions are ever asked. Steer clear of these buses by a width of three
passengers.

One-way Street: These boards are put up by traffic people to add jest in their
otherwise drab lives. Don't stick to the literal meaning and proceed in one
direction. In metaphysical terms, it means that you cannot proceed in two
directions at once. So drive, as you like, in reverse throughout, if you are
the fussy type. Least I sound hypercritical; I must add a positive point also.
Rash and fast driving in residential areas has been prevented by providing a
"speed breaker"; two for each house.

Night driving on Indian roads can be an exhilarating experience. In a way, it
is like playing Russian roulette, because you do not know who amongst the
drivers is loaded. What looks like premature dawn on the horizon turns out to
be a truck attempting a speed record. On encountering it, just pull partly into
the field adjoining the road until the phenomenon passes. Our roads do not have
shoulders, but occasional boulders. Do not blink your lights expecting
reciprocation. The only dim thing in the truck is the driver, and with the peg
of illicit arrack (alcohol) he has had at the last stop, his total cerebral
functions add up to little more than a naught. Truck drivers are the James
Bonds of India, and are licensed to kill. Often you may encounter a single
powerful beam of light about six feet above the ground. This is not a super
motorbike, but a truck approaching you with a single light on, usually the left
one. It could be the right one, but never get too close to investigate. Of
course, all this occurs at night, on the trunk roads. During the daytime,
trucks are more visible, except that the drivers will never show any Signal.
(And you must watch for the absent signals; they are the greater threat). Only,
you will often observe that the cleaner who sits next to the driver, will
project his hand and wave hysterically.

This is definitely not to be construed as a signal for a left turn. The waving
is just a statement of physical relief on a hot day.

If, after all this, you still want to drive in India, have your lessons between
8 pm and 11 am-when the police have gone home and The citizen is then free to
enjoy the 'FREEDOM OF SPEED' enshrined in our constitution.

Having said all this, isn't it true that the accident rate and related deaths
are less in India compared to US or other countries!!? ?

Regards,

N