The Great Indian Drive

August 15, 2010

Last weekend we embarked on a journey to a village in the middle of forests that were in turn surrounded by Military training areas. Shamirpet is a largely suburban town, about 35 miles from Hyderabad.

Driving in India is like the theory of Karma - do your best and leave the rest to your insurance company. And just like you would cautiously move your pawn in Chess, so would you tread cautiously on non-existent lanes with near-deaf pedestrians crossing the road like they were having their evening stroll on their lawn. And not to mention each one of them talking intently on their mobiles virtually oblivious to the barrage of honking vehicles precariously close to rubbing their ass.

The GPS indicated about one-third of the route to be on highways. Of late highways connecting major cities have been re-constructed and tolled, so you could expect a better driving experience than the city roads. But this was not to be one of them.

We headed west on Mumbai Road which, after 7 miles, merged on to NH9. We were greeted by a herd of 15 buffalos (yeah, had enough time to count them) which took to the road and slowly made their way across at an irritating pace, like only it could. The traffic came to a standstill. A few smart alecs started honking loudly trying to scare the animals away. But years of conditioning to the sights and sounds of Indian traffic has made the buffalos immune to the noise of the honks or the raging vehicles. All you could do in the world is - stand and wait.

The driving principle on Indian roads is simple - if you have space, keep moving. No, it doesn't matter if someone is waiting to be yielded to, or if there are pedestrians waiting, or even if it means you would be blocking a junction. And a red or green light not necessarily means you need to stop and go. Watch the rest of the traffic and do what everybody does. If the traffic moves on red, keep moving behind them; lest your migraines could be tested by an orchestra of loud and assorting honking and cries of "Why are you stopping on red" in a number of local dialects.

As per the GPS, we were to keep driving on NH9 for about 12 miles, and then merge onto NH7 for another 5 miles before taking an exit onto the village area. It took us 75 minutes to cover that stretch, and the entire 35 mile drive took almost 2 hours. Count another 2 hours of drive back too.

"Need For No Speed" could make an excellent game on the Wii, with the players having to drive through the thick traffic of Indian roads and the first to reach the destination wins.

Kishore is a techie based in Bangalore. When he's not writing software, he spends his time writing himself out trying to understand the perfection of reality. Read his musings over life, nature, music and the art of living at Dayswork.
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