So, here I am winding down my initial India trip and wanted to fill you in on the driving madness here.
I can see why our firm doesn’t want us to drive. Jacob (a colleague in India) told us that the line in the middle of the road is “merely a suggestion.” People pass each other, using their horns frequently, while drivers are coming straight toward them. They squeak by, sometimes five abreast, four going one direction taking up most of the road and forcing the one coming the other direction to drive off the edge. Buses and trucks have writing on the backs of them that read: Sound Horn. I’m sure there’s a specific language associated with it; but I haven’t figured it out.
Our drivers have been VERY focused and so strangely enough, I haven’t been nervous when riding in this craziness.
‘Drivers’ can be driving camel carts, ox carts, horse carts, rickshaw-type carts, bicycle carts as well as just plain bicycles, buses, lorries, cars (mostly small), motorcycles (tons of these) and lots of Autos (Tuk Tuks), which are the small, three wheeled taxis (for those of you who saw The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, you know what I’m talking about). We saw one of them with 17 people in and on it (our driver counted). Several people were riding on top and we were amazed that they didn’t bounce right off given the road conditions.
We saw five people on a motorcycle – two small children up front, the driver (presumably the father) with the mother on the back riding side-saddle in her sari and holding a baby. We’ve seen many with three people onboard and some with four, but this one surprised both Tracy and I when our driver pointed it out. Oh, and most don’t wear helmets. Oh, and our driver said 70% of the motorcyclists don’t have licenses.
You might see buses with people riding on top and squashed inside. We saw trucks that are open in the back (like pick-up trucks with wooden slats on the sides) that will just stop and pick people up (apparently people pay a small fee to ride in these). We also saw a ‘handmade truck’ with the wooden slats on the back, but when we passed it, there was no cab in front, simply a wooden slab with a steering mechanism and an engine underneath.
Coming back from Agra, it got dark and then it was really scary with many trucks having no rear tail lights. We passed one such truck on the right only to get stopped by cows in the road. Or sometimes the cars will turn off their headlights in deference to the drivers heading toward them. I told the driver that it must be really difficult on the back roads in the dark.
At one point, we were stopped at one of the very few stop lights and police officers were walking by and having all the stopped drivers breathe into a device to check for alcohol levels. Apparently they can’t just stop you, but if you’re already stopped, they can just make you take this ‘test.’ Interesting!
As in England, they drive on the other side of the road. People are walking everywhere with motorized and other vehicles sort of crossing every which way. There are also motorcycles and Autos driving on the side of the road, generally trying to cross, but basically coming at you from the wrong direction.
Someone asked me where the traffic police were and when I asked my driver, Majesh, he just laughed. On the way to work the other morning, we saw a guy come out of a bar and get on his motorcycle. He was weaving all over the place and nearly collided with several oncoming vehicles before turning off the road. Majesh was just shaking his head and staying as far away as possible!
This morning there was a bright yellow Lamborghini parked in front of my hotel. Majesh said it would be very sad to drive a car like that in India with all the traffic, congestion and road conditions!
So after this, I can’t imagine you’d be wondering, but just in case you are, I will definitely NOT be driving while in India.