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Messed up “atmosphere”! March 23, 2008

Posted by Giselle in Réflexions diverses.
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To make things clear in the beginning itself, I am originally from India. Its been only a few days since I got back from a long trip abroad..Thinking I would get some groceries to do a little bit of cooking, I stepped out of my home..

At first it was peaceful.. calm.. the birds twittering, the wind softly blowing through the various trees on the roadside, making its leaves flutter..the smell of jasmines in the air.. the slightly cloudy sky due to the beginning of the rainy seasons.. It was just Perfect!:)

But it was not destined to last…

As soon as I reached the main road, I was aghast! The first thing I noticed was the billowing smoke in the sky. I thought a fire had started someplace.. Upon closer inspection, I realized that it was the exhaust fumes of the innumerable vehichles on the road.. O dear God! I truly had forgotten the traffic and the road conditions of India!!! :O

As I stood there, trying to cross the road, my eardrums were jarred by the cacophony of noises..by vehichles, loudspeakers, religious procesions, street vendors…! It was too much to take in at one go!! Im a person who loves the outdoors but at the moment, I wished I hadnt stepped out of the endearing confines of my home!!!

Somehow squashing myself between the vehichles and making a dash towards the opposite side, I did manage to cross the road finally!

I know I will get used to it sooner or later.. but the “welcome” back home was too much for me to take at one go..

 I remember this article that I had chanced upon sometime back..written by a Dutchman who had spent 2 yrs in Bangalore.. I dont remember his name but Ive managed to dig up this article from deep inside the papers.. Check this out! It exactly describes the road situation in India and is quite funny too!

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 generally intended direction. Don’t you get discouraged or underestimate yourself except for a belief in reincarnation; the other drivers are not in any better position.

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. Pedestrians have been strictly instructed to cross only when traffic is moving slowly or has come to a dead stop because some minister is in town. Still some idiot may try to wade across, but then, let us not talk ill of the dead.

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 rainwater 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 enroute 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. This mound, incidentally, covers the water and drainage pipes for that residence and is left untarred for easy identification by the corporation authorities, should they want to recover the pipe for year-end accounting.

Night driving on Indian roads can be an exhilarating experience for those with the mental make up of Genghis Khan. 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. You may prove your point posthumously.

 Believe me. Cant help it, but it IS the truth about the Indian roads and traffic..  O yes.. Now that I am back, and have experienced it once, I have gotten used to it 🙂 You just learn after awhile 😉 hehehe…

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