Sunday, February 07, 2010

Driving in India

On my last trip to India in 2007, I wrote this piece about Traffic Guidelines. I need to expand those.

I think the key to driving and walking across the streets is the attitude. To cross the street in Mumbai, one must be bold. There are taxis, motorcycles, buses and cars. There are other pedestrians walking, so one car may stop. However, the guy behind him may want to loop around to pass. I tried to adopt the mantra "Maintain my stride and the driver will accomodate me." When I did that, I was pulled aside and told "You're gonna get hit! What are you doing?"

We have a friend who lived in the US for some time and now returned to India. She said she tried to drive conscientiously, but it was wasted effort. She said people honked at her and told her to shape up and drive. After that, she found her attitude and started driving like the rest of maniacs on the road. Her husband doesn't drive in India.

The problem in cities is that people walk in the street, not on the sidewalks. "Sidewalks are for the hawkers and parking motorcycles." So, in a way, you can get to your destination faster by walking and dodging traffic than on the sidewalks. Quotes by my friends who were driving:
"You're banking on your luck when you drive in Mumbai"
"[In Delhi], drive by instinct"

These are some pics from our roadtrip from Delhi to Agra
We're coming out of parking lot. Pick a lane to drive, buddy!

This is a morning car pool. This type of rickshaw can accomodate 6-8 people inside (including the driver). Note the guy holding the orange bag. Next to him is someone holding a water bottle that you can't see!

This is the business class seats!
So we're driving through a town and everyone jumped on the truck for a ride! We were right behind them and took some neat pics!

And, just when you think you're done with people, you run into goats!

Trucks in India all have decorations and statements painted on them, especially requesting honks when driving around the truck. The classic is the "Horn Ok Please", which lead us to an interesting discussion. I always thought it meant "Horn Please, OK?" We saw "Horn Do" (Do in Hindi is give, so it meant Give a Honk) . This one just said "Blow Horn." There were also statements in Hindi.
By the way, I loved this moment when we driving to a town called Gokul. It was an unpaved road with construction in spots and just generally dirty. Yet, this man was washing his truck so passionately. In one way, it seemed so futile to do it. However, there's such a sense of pride in what he was doing it. (I always wondered about this male phenomenon - they can wash a car for hours.. a sinkful of dishes, well that's just too much to ask!)
There's never a dull moment on the roads in India!

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