Thursday, September 28, 2006

Learning to merge in Indian traffic

I have been driving myself since we sacked our driver in early July.  I am almost three months into my first relationship with a manual transmission.  I mostly only drive within my ‘hood...on roads that are known to people and places that are known (the HOPCOMS guy on 13th Main, or the good people at MK Retail, Indiranagar, Anjali’s school at Kangaroo Kids, or Forum Mall in Koramangala, maybe a 10-KM radius).  

My driving instructor here told me that I must remember only two traffic rules - 1)Might makes right - he who has the biggest vehicle has the right of way, or he with the most expensive vehicle is automatically at fault in any accident, and 2) Hit but don’t hurt - it’s ok to do a little damage to another vehicle, but not to another person or a cow.   

The most harrowing part of my return home is making a U-turn along a very hi-speed, hi-traffic “ring road.”   I try to make use of the Might Makes Right principle (hard to do as i drive a small, 4 year old Mitsubishi Lancer.  Luckily, since no one has respect for lanes, what usually happens is bigger vehicles with pushier drivers form a second lane to my left.  They stick their noses out and gradually stop traffic, and i, like a suckerfish to a humpback, glide alongside - with never any risk to my vehicle.   

In fact, once i had the fortuitous experience that both principles converged when i was attempting that awful u-turn.   Lots of fast-moving traffic was barrelling down the side of the road i wanted to be on, but there were no bigger vehicles to help me maneuver the turn.  Lo and behold, a trio of huge water buffalos decided to cross the road with me.  Traffic on the opposite road stopped, and I made the turn with the buffaloes’ blessing.    

One downside of not having a driver is that i can no longer snap photos when moments such as that one occurs.

1 comment:

Anushri said...


Love the blog! I'm an Indian American with a wonderful 1 year old girl, and my (American) husband just got a job in Pune, so we'll be moving in just a few months. I'd love to hear any advice you have!

Aruna and Anushri