Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Finally had an accident - i hit but didn't hurt!
My nightmare finally became a reality, I had an accident here in Bangalore driving alone. It was barely a fender bender, and I think the result of the insurance adjuster's report would say i was 30% at fault. I was trying to switch lanes, had my blinker on and had checked in back of me. I saw a little black car coming but figured he should be decelerating, as i had my blinker on and we were nearing an intersection where you're supposed to slow down. Apparently, the other driver felt that he should go faster when approaching the intersection, and he wanted to be in front of me. We scraped each other's paint just a little.
In India, when you get into an accident, the crowd that witnessed the accident takes off, going about their own routines. But, don't worry, a new crowd replaces that crowd... this crowd are neither witnesses, nor helpers... they are just nosy mischief makers. Oh, and you don't just automatically pull over to the side. You block the other guy's car from moving, because many times people just take off and don't care about the formalities or the other guy's problems.
The first time I was involved in an accident I wasn't driving, my spaced-out, nonEnglish, nonKannada speaking driver was driving. He nudged a rickshaw when trying to pull out from a parking spot. If you remember from my earlier post about the traffic rules - he with the most expensive car loses - the auto driver became very agitated. The auto driver was further enraged that my driver did not speak Kannada - that he was injured by a "foriegner" driving another foreigner. A small crowd of mostly good-for-nothing types surrounded the vehicle, agitating for the Kannadiga autodriver vs the foreign-owned/driven Scorpio (a domestic made SUV). They were shouting for 500 rupees to fix the auto's scratches (a ridiculously high amount). That is one of the few times I felt really unsafe in India. Nobody came to intervene between the crowd and my driver. I threatened to call the police, but they just laughed because they figured i would have to pay something to the policeman anyway (police here, as everywhere, are unpaid, so most take unofficial "perks" or bribes - sometimes they'll even demand to be paid for investigating your complaint!! Strangely, when they are around foreigners they are on their best behavior and will be insulted if a foreigner tries to bribe them.) I ended up paying 150 rupees just to get out of there.
This time a small crowd assembled, but the other driver went to get the policeman. I called my FIL and asked him to send someone from the office who could translate for me. I showed the policeman my license and insurance paper, and told him my boss was coming to wait just a few minutes. I didn't realize it, but the other driver was not the owner of the vehicle- he may have been an office boy or driver. I had thought he was too thin and not that well dressed to own such a vehicle (a Honda City - similar to the Corolla). After a year here of mistaking maids for madams and madams for maids, I finally figured out that the very thin ones with not so nice teeth are the maids and the chubbier ones are the madams.
Anyway, the owner came, rubbed the scratches with a hanky, and decided that a few scratches wasn't worth any trouble. He approached my vehicle, since my windows were up and I remembered how ugly people can be here at times like this, without letting him speak, I said - "don't worry, i have insurance, someone from my office is on the way," and I began to roll my window back up.
He said, "No, please, you misunderstand me, madam. It is only a few scratches to the paint. I do not want to get the police involved in such a small matter, how about you?"
"I don't mind if you don't mind. Are you sure, like I said, I have insurance for these things...," I told him.
"No, no, it is not necessary at all, " he repeated and then he went off to the policeman and told him no report was necessary.
Phew! But dontcha think that guy must have been a little bit shady to not want to involve the police like that?? I do, but then maybe it's the last vestige of American prejudices that i cling to...