Here’s an excerpt from Shayne on the road in India:
Back in 2001, during my first visit to India, the car that ruled the road was the Ambassador. Built like a brick to survive decades of use on potholed roads, the Ambassador sedan sort of looked like a 1940s sofa — rounded, bovine, maternal, ready to serve.
Today, twenty years later, they have vanished. (Well, at least in the bigger cities. They may survive, still running, in smaller towns and villages.) Now the roads are full of Honda, Hyundai, Suzuki, and other carmakers from Europe, as well as India’s own Tata. Sizes vary from super-compac, like a Fiat would be in the US, to the midsize town-SUV, like a Honda CRV.
Tuk-tuks, the three-wheel taxis, are still around, but fewer in number, because of air pollution concerns. And there are buses. And even an Indian version of Uber, called Ola.
Interesting detail: there are Ola, tuk-tuk and bus services that only carry women passengers, and have women drivers. Safety, you see.
I bring this up because a feature of living in India is not just the amount of traffic, but how it flows. Masses of cars, trucks, motorcycles and pedestrians in the streets, and there are really only three rules:
1) keep to the left side of the road,
2) use your horn to announce your presence, and
3) adjust your speed and maneuvering to allow other vehicles and pedestrians safe passage.
It takes a while for a Western driver’s nerve to adjust to this. What, no speed? No slammed brakes? No yelling? No middle fingers? Horn only means, “Halloo, heads up, howdy, ‘scuse me, coming through here, thanks, be safe” — ? Everybody is nice?
Hey, everybody survives. Another car may glide past within 3 inches of yours, but if it doesn’t actually hit you, all is well and God is great.
It’s flow, man. No worries, everything will work out. This seems to be the bedrock of how to get along here. You want/need something? You can run around town chasing it today, sure (lots of time in traffic), but you can also just chill and know that somehow the time to ask for it will come to you and you will be ready. Details, research and preparation matter, yes, but also patience and forbearance.
Forbearance, patience. Services that have gone out so far: Electricity in the kitchen, water, Internet (for political reasons, see: CAB protests). All came back, no worries. Adjust your speed. Improvise for your immediate needs. Continue to be excellent to each other.
Either way, no worries. Just flow!
Shayne, India came alive for me. Thank you.