The Great Indian Roads

Whoever said driving on Indian roads was a curse, didn’t have the foggiest clue about the enormous life-changing benefits it has.Take for instance my everyday drive to my son’s school . It has imbibed me with almost Zen like qualities. Though you might be hard-pressed to spot it amidst the generous profanities that spews forth, but let me assure you its there.

Curtsey: Times of India
Curtsey: Times of India

There was a time, when all it took to unleash the beast in me, was a full blown horn of a vehicle which appeared like a bat out of hell, with a mission to go right back.I would fix my face with most baleful stare I could manage,puff myself up like a pufferfish ready for battle and turn on the infernal anthropoid !..and.. and my anger would dissipate like a POOF , when by my side would appear this most insipid, half-witted bloke who looked like he could only open his mouth for eating or leering or both.But now, all that has changed. When somebody honks the living daylights out of me, I am now able to resist the impulse to reach for a shotgun.

I now understand.

For instance consider the ubiquitous honking. “Horn OK Please.” Could there a more amiable way to solicit somebody to blow their horn ? Who could resist that. I, for one, definitely cannot.At times I feel rather despondent when I am not able to oblige all the vehicles on the road. You see, it has this whole lot of positivity connected to it. Its equal. If you have a horn – blow it. It doesn’t matter if you have a three wheeler just hammered together as an afterthought or one of those sleek swanky cars.Its a message to blow your own horn and you don’t even need to be on Facebook ! Isn’t that liberating ? You don’t have to be lily-livered about broadcasting to the whole world that you have a horn and you can blow it.

It also demonstrates an astounding scientific understanding in the power of sound aka. acoustic levitation.We are trying our level best to see whether our powerful honking can lift the obstructing vehicle out of our way, especially when some nincompoops mistakenly believe they need to stop at traffic lights.Now those simple – minded folks who installed those traffic lights just wasted tons of money. Imagine thinking that the junta will halt based on some dumb pole flashing lights, though I admit that its kinda convenient for sticking chewing gums as you whiz past.

Our traffic is our biggest leveler. The autorikshaw-wallahs with the stained betel leaves,the scooter with a family of six astride, the cacophony of two wheelers, the starched guys sitting in the plush backseats of their Benzs’ and Audis’, the truck belching black fumes are all stuck in the same traffic jam. The traffic doesn’t give way based on how pricey a vehicle is. I found that thought absolutely resounding with social equality. You are only as fast as the slowest vehicle on that road. Tsch ! Tsch ! to all those dorks who decided to waste their dough on buying shiny SUVs and flashy sedans while they too move at the pace of the cycle rickshaw. Especially when the slowest moving vehicle always decides to experience life in the fast lane. I call that ambitious.

I also learned that changing lanes at your whims and fancies is not bad.It shows a single minded determination to reach your destination, no matter what.Lane changing on a whim also increases the reflexes of all drivers who need to break, swerve or run into the pole at a second’s notice. This is in fact the single thing which has been instrumental in equipping our country’s drivers with sharply honed reflexes. I determined to do my bit to uplift my country.

Its also a place sans rules.How many places can truly boast of being as liberal ? You can weave through the traffic at breakneck speed – enjoy the thrill of overtaking from wherever you want – shift lanes whenever you want – jump the lights – even do wheelies. Ooh La la ! I am waiting for the next-gen hovercars to experience skyjams.

Crossroads without those meddlesome traffic lights are the ones I dig the most, especially when we practically solve a puzzling theory. How can three vehicles form a triangle without the possibility of any of them moving an inch. While the drivers are absorbed in this interesting conundrum, the long line of waiting automobiles provide a colorful audience.Talking about color, I love the way, we greet each other on the roads. My language learning has improved by leaps and bounds as I coin newer adjectives cocooned within the confines of my car. I specifically delight in the minimalist gestures on the road – when so much gets expressed by the simple raise of the hand accompanied an ‘AEEE’.

Its also such a comforting feeling to have so many cars,buses, autorickshaws by your side, rather like the Kumbh Mela.If you erroneously thought that traffic was the only thing that was curative on the roads – think again. There is an organization which is exclusively responsible for our betterment as individuals. Its called the Bureau for Betterment and Maintenance of Potholes (BBMP). It was preordained that potholes were a necessary requirement for all roads – in a bid to make vehicles more robust, people more flexible and to make life generally more interesting. And the good BBMP said – Let there be potholes. Only the most stodgy kind of chaps could love the monotony of a level road without any potholes.I would be like a fish out of water. If you thought potholes always appeared out of thin air, then let me immediately dispel that notion and and apprise you of the immense effort that goes behind it.Sometimes, poor materials are strategically used or heavy vehicles are made to do the task. At other times,the making of potholes is so strategically thought out that immediately after laying a road, some industrious individuals from other responsible organizations are seen digging right across the road. These dug up roads are then conscientiously filled up with mud, leaving enough rocks on the surface so that we can still experience the thrill of the potholes.

There is also the occasional cows, drain water flooding onto the roads, just to liven things up a bit. I dig the games we play on the road ‘See I scared you’ and ‘My House is on Fire’. Some people like playing ‘One way or two way,my way is the high way’ by driving the opposite direction in one-ways. ‘Who stopped the traffic’ is my personal favorite. This is basically when one vehicle blocks the stream of vehicles by maneuvering exactly perpendicular to the direction of traffic bringing the entire traffic to a halt while it waits to get on to the other side. Ingenious some of them are – I tell you.

So while you tell me which games you like to play on the roads, let me go and have a word with that twerp who just dented my car.

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43 thoughts on “The Great Indian Roads

  1. Haha.. I have this rule when I drive – I am going to drive whichever way I want and however I want and if you think your life is too precious..you are going to stay away from me.

    ofcourse I have almost killed many dogs going by this rule 😀

  2. Oh yes, the Indian traffic can be such an uplifting experience as you have shown :D. Right from your triangle theory to the potholes, you have got it all spot on. Well written, biting sarcasm.

  3. I enjoyed the sarcasm but I can sense your anger. I feel the same when I am in Delhi/Gurgaon traffic. Unscrupulous drivers with no liability or responsibility, folks on mobile phones while they drive, rustic pedestrians walking in the middle of the road, drunk trunk drivers….endless. Roads area mirror of the society, they say. And I don’t like what I see.
    Good one.

    1. There are so many times Alka, when I wonder why people cant be more considerate. Why the ‘pehle aap’ attitude is never to be seen on the roads. People drive as if their house is on fire or they just have to go pee ! Thanks for your comment 🙂

  4. Haha. Quite an adventure you have everyday that you take the car out, Ash. It’s been a while since you wrote one of your humor posts – So welcome back. As for the roads, a big SIGH. It isn’t just the drivers. Pedestrians, animals, rubbish – literally every thing we can think of is usually on the road. So it proves to be quite an ask to “go around them”. For now, drive safe.

    1. Thanks for your comment Sid ! I could have easily done with out such adventures. Its a jolt to my poor aging heart 🙂 Everything’s on the road these days..its a wonder we are still finding some place to drive 😀

  5. All that Zen is because you just do not have the Punjabi to back your irritation 🙂 Which red-blooded person would waste ANY opportunity to show of her virtuosity in Punjabi gaalis? 😛

    You amaze as usual when you turn to hilarity in your posts, Ash!

    1. Ha ha Ruch ! I am nowhere near the Zen state though I aspire to keep my temper down and my head above water. I have lost count of the number of times I have wanted to strangle or kill somebody 🙂

  6. There is an organization which is exclusively responsible for our betterment as individuals. Its called the Bureau for Betterment and Maintenance of Potholes (BBMP). It was preordained that potholes were a necessary requirement for all roads – in a bid to make vehicles more robust, people more flexible and to make life generally more interesting. And the good BBMP said – Let there be potholes.

    *Still laughing*

    For most drivers, its not merely a horn but a tool of empowerment to nudge, irritate, inform and warn.

    Loved reading this!

    1. Definitely – the horn has acquired the most significant proportions, its the next best thing to manhood 😉 Which is why so many two wheelers get a truck horn fitted on them ! Thanks for your comment Purba.

  7. Hahahaha. 😀
    I could relate to so much of this, especially in this age of super diminishing road sense. How I wish people learn more patience, tolerance and forbearance. People includes me, I know. 😀

  8. Reminds me of a dialogue from a Tamil movie which translates to “We indicate right using the indicator, left using our hands and then go straight” 🙂 My company bus driver used to honk the horn like crazy when waiting at a traffic light especially when he was the first in line! Will a traffic light ever change color hearing a blaring horn? 😀

    1. That dialogue is so apt !! Absolutely hilarious ! Many times the limp hand hanging out of the truck drivers side is the only indication of an impending turn. Your company driver seems absolutely cuckoo 😀

  9. LOL! Nuances and fun of driving on Indian roads. Those poles with blinkering lights are followed only when men in white is guarding them and yes, honking is just to give music effect to the eerie silence present on the roads. 😛

    Hope dent on your car is not big or just a part of this fiction.

    1. Thanks for your comment Saru. Yes, the poles and the men in Khaki.I guess after a time .. the ‘fun’ part reduces and the ‘stress’ part increases manifold.Dent on the car at least for now is fictitious.. but have had many over a period of time 🙂

  10. great raisin

    It’s a one-player game – I call it “I’m checking your ride out”. When I see a really nice vehicle on the road, I try to get alongside it and check it out. 😀

  11. indrani

    This is so true and you have written in such a humorous manner. 🙂
    Have you played Chinese checkers… driving in Indian jam packed roads is something like that. 🙂

  12. Ha ha.. nice one Ash, esp about traffic being a great levelizer with social equality 😀 😀 ..

    Honestly even I hate honking, I have been stopped twice so far and people have shouted at me since I did not honk :O.. It sure is a crazy world out there 🙂

  13. On average, I drive for around 2 hours a day. 5 days a week. And you have no idea how vigorously I was nodding my head as I read this post. I could have written it. Really.

  14. Never mind the twerps who put a dent in your car: they were born to do that.

    Indian roads is where the precepts of Charles Robert Darwin are at fullest display. You are expected to pour in everything you have, including connections and clout. Willingness and ability to bribe the traffic cops are the most important traits when you violate signals, bipeds, cyclists, motorists both stationary and supersonic.

    1. That completely rings true ! Survival of the fittest no less. Plus the right of way to most aggressive. No wonder as a population we are growing more aggressive by the day. Every sphere of life is fostering the trait and roads are definitely no exception.

  15. lol! aptly put Asha! Just to add that I also feel honoured that these strangers we encounter on the roads trust us with their lives. Driving rash, I assume with the hope that we will break and sverve in time to save their lives!

    P.S- Was under the weather most of the month, just about hopping back into the world now 🙂

    1. Hope you are okay now Seeta and all well. Welcome back 🙂 Yes, we do place an immense amount trust in strangers ! Lol ! Ascribe it to our trustworthy nature as people…knew something positive could definitely be churned out of the whole thing 🙂

  16. MS, these road games are international. One of my favorites is when two vehicles going in opposite directions stop to chat with each other. They see me waiting to get past and hold an index finger up to signal ‘just one more minute’. After two minutes, seeing that I am getting very impatient, they act as though I am the one with the attitude for disrupting their conversation.

  17. only challenge for an eternal pedestrian like me is crossing the road. you need to be a master of speed and distance calculations in order to accomplish the task. you live in bangalore. i always wondered whether it’s practically possible to cross the road at certain places in bangalore. the thought of crossing the road near domlur flyover always sent a chill down my spine.

    superb post Ash!

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