Motor mayhem or mastery?

Looking out into the Indian traffic the mind boggles. Vehicles moving this way and that, crossing randomly over what I might imagine to be lanes in the road. Horns honking in short bursts and long wails; the huge lorries honk with short melodies and the chundering busses with a deep throated rumbling ‘hoooooonk-aly-hooooooooook’. On the wrong side of the road small rickshaws and motorbikes sneak up the wrong way to avoid crossing to their side of the road to ride just a short distance.

The vehicles on the road adhere to their unspoken hierarchy; the bigger the vehicle the higher it comes in the pecking order, although it does seem that a loud honk can make up for being of small vehicular stature. Besides vehicles the road can be traversed by a myriad of different animals, the holy cow getting the right of way over all moving things in India; elephants commanding similar respect for obvious reasons, size does matter; herds of goats and sheep receive quite some respect too, there is safety in numbers; dogs come low on the pecking order, once honked at they scamper out of harms way.

This chaos works (most of the time) because everyone is communicating with each other. Instead of just driving by road signs and signals they look and evaluate each and every move. The horn (however noise polluting it is) is a method of communication ‘look out I’m coming through’. And theres a subsequent level of tolerance and allowing. Overtaking while there is oncoming traffic is commonplace, if there turns out to be too little space the oncoming traffic slows down and moves over to create space. While European driving is more structured and orderly we can be pretty stumped when something happens that is not in accordance with the roads rules and signals. Here anything goes and is accommodated one way or another.

With my international driving licence now in hand I will be venturing out onto the roads soon. I plan to go slow, expect anything and everything, especially the unexpected. Against my desires I will honk when honking seems necessary, and I suppose I will have to honk a little extra for good measure, I’m going to be driving a small car after all.


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2 thoughts on “Motor mayhem or mastery?

    1. I think I’ve observed enough to know roughly what I’m in for. I took a ride with a female driver the other week, she was very slow, not at all aggressive and just tootled along at her own pace. Was good to see that technique works, might not go very fast but its a safe (everything is relative) start. I drove in the mountains a while back, through one small town. That went fine 🙂


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