Bombay Blaggg 3, a monthly magazine of serialized events of whats happening in real life Bombay.
Editors notes: Editors thoughts, explanations and remarks are in italic to help the reader get into ‘the mood’. These editorials are based on real events and live people but told though the point of view of the editor. Wherever possible names are changed to protect the guilty (or the innocent). These stories are light hearted reading presented as a monthly diary. By no means are they intended to offend anyone.
Roadways here in India are an amazing and ever changing vista. Imagine a mega stock car race, only rule is shouldn’t hit anything (deliberately). Goras, (westerners no PC here) will note the absence of the dreaded traffic cones (locals will steal and use as bugles to call early morning prayers)
Road users are buses, trucks, vans, cars, man/petrol powered 3 wheelers and carts, trikes, motorbikes, cows, scooters, horse buggy’s, rickshaws, bullock carts, dogs, goats, chickens, buffaloes, sack trucks, pushbikes, load carriers and pedestrians. Taxis are saved for another article. And I forgot to mention pedestrians!
Obstacles are many. Potholes, manholes, drains, trees literally in the middle of a carriageway, abandoned vehicles, stalled vehicles, drivers dreaming of Bollywood stars, pedestrians, pile of rubble, taxis and vehicles in front / behind. In monsoon not advisable to drive into a puddle unless known how deep it is. Add the odd flying cock (the feathered type) and you get the general mayhem. On urban roads even dynamiting of mountains halts traffic.
Driving licenses are easily obtained. No test required. Just sit behind the wheel and look good, slip examiner 100 coins and you are motoring!! Where shall we go?
Kerbing wheels, parking on walkways, or half mounting pavement is rare. Kerbs are 16” high so you wouldn’t want to break an axle. No RAC breakdown service here either!
Best way to drive is to assume you are only user. Anyone is a strong target for displeasure. Overtake or undertake at will. As a driver you squeeze into any space thus disallowing anyone to get in your way. Buses undergo metamorphism at junctions. They slim down to the width of a pushbike. This phenomena explains why 2 lane carriageways become 5 lanes. Even 6 or 7 lane if you include cycles.
Who would be a Traffic Cop? They risk their life & limb as they contort their bodies like matadors with rush hour traffic. No one gives a flying fig as their wing mirrors brush police buttocks giving an OOooo! No wonder cops are so stressed they seek transfers or leave the force. That would atleast end some corruption!
All users attitude is the same, their need is greater than others. You can overtake emergency vehicles (or intimidatingly tail gate them) even if they are flashing blue lights on the way to a job.
Another trick apart from occupying as much road as possible is to go as slow as you can to infuriate driver behind and not let him pass with ease. White lining and hogging 2 lanes helps this too. Even if he is tickling your exhaust. If you are behind, try imaginably nudge him out of the way if climbing into his exhaust doesn’t work.
Interesting when a cyclist attempts this. With traffic whizzing past on either side you need balls of steel and not be afraid of dieing. Making a right or left turn increases adrenalin. A slight wobble goes to help unnerve anyone behind but it risks personal safety. A cyclist has advantage of weaving in and out of traffic to get to the front at road junctions. But this must make their cheeks squeak as being at the center of 5 lanes of motorized vehicles revving their engines in menacing fashion cant be much fun.
Pedestrians are even more daring.
Minds lost in clouds with their mp3, mobile radios and oblivious to car horns and anything else for that matter. They are fearless. Walk or cross roads where ever they please! Zebra crossings aren’t seen as ideal place to cross -the black bits camouflage skin by 50% making them a heart racing target for mad motorists. Pedestrians want 100% odds in their favor so are just as likely to walk into path of a moving vehicle. Think it is to do with a belief about reaching paradise to be surrounded by 7 virgins. Fat chance in 21st century!!
Why women behave in the same fashion I haven’t a clue, no virgins for them. Let you ponder on that.
If you run down a pedestrian or cyclist in urban areas, it is fine. As long as they don’t get up again and there are no witnesses. Best practice is foot down and throw a bunch of rupees out of the window. They (even police) will be too busy picking up the money to clock your vehicle whilst you make a getaway.
At peak hours, road users play chicken! It takes the dredge out of the long journey home. It is mind blowing to westerners but fun for locals. The idea is to get your nose in front and encroach. Your chances of winning are drastically increased if your vehicle is older than the one you are approaching. You blink -you loose!.
Sounding your horn with a beeb is considered politely letting other users know of your presence. A long beeeeeb means someone is getting on your nerves. Flashing headlamps at the same time as a beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeb, means they win!!
Motorbikes and scooters have amazing load capacity. They are hornets of the road. You can not predict where they will come from or their flight paths. I have evidence of 4 people on a bike but eye witnesses report even more. Their payloads are as much as a small van, but then a van in this country can carry the amount of a truck and a bus will easily transport 150 passengers!
A rarity is the use of a mobile phones (though everyone has one) whilst driving.
I would stress that despite these conditions you don’t see as many accidents as frequently as you would in the western world.
Indians prove organized chaos works!