Saturday, July 16, 2011

Driving in India


A few weeks ago, we once again experienced driving long distance in India. My adrenaline glands got to exercise a lot more than it had, when I got up on the supposedly world’s highest roller coaster at Cedar Point, in Cleveland, more than a decade and a half ago. It had been a thrill or lets just accept, a life altering experience for me at the time. Well, it’s been replaced now. 

Actually, it had well been replaced a few years ago when we drove from Hardwar to Delhi.  Except for the driver, none of us in the car were sure, we would reach the airport to take the flight back to Hyderabad.  Luckily, and by gods grace, we did.

A few weeks ago, my family had started from Tirupati to travel to Hyderabad by road with a stopover in Vijayawada,  The road between Tirupati and Vijayawada is a good 4 lane one with the on coming traffic clearly separated by a wide divider. It would have been an easy ride even if the driver had wanted to touch 100k and some more.

This brings me to another question. What is the speed limit on an Indian Highway?  Would anybody know that? I failed to find any sign related to that on the highway. One thing became clear to us…its for the drivers to decide the speed limit on these highways.

In spite of such clear highways and a few obstacles..that could easily be tackled…


we took well over 8 hours to reach Vijayawada.

Mr.Driver’s adrenaline was taking a rest. It must have tired out during the previous ride. Surrounded by a gang of pukers who were waiting to drench me in their vomit with a slightest bump…with great mental tenacity, I had stopped my hands as they moved towards the driver’s knees, to push it down with all my might, so the vehicle would gain some speed.

Being at his mercy…Hubby dear had offered him yet another cup of coffee, hoping it would wake the driver’s sluggish mind and body.  It didn’t. Given up, both Hubby and me took refuge in the thought that this way is much safer. We tried hard to ignore the 10000 times 4 of

“How much more time to reach Vijayawada?” 

“How much longer?!”

“Are we there?!”

from our restless kids.

We were clearly excited beyond doubt to reach Vijayawada. After having a great time with friends, I shuddered at the thought that its going to be another 7 hours of drive to Hyderabad from there.  Nothing worried me more than handling this hopelessly lovable gang of pukers that I had, around me. 

Armed with enough information, sickness bags and some motion sickness pills we set out on the drive.  Little did I know that there was another thing that I would be dealing with this day.  Although, our driver looked like the same man who drove us to Vijayawada, he was a changed man this morning!!  In fact…he was a charged man today!!!

The road to Hyderabad wasn’t like the one we drove on the previous day. Most of it was a single lane road and the rest, under construction. Guess how one drives on such lanes..? Overtaking the bigger trucks every few minutes is the code to follow. Well, there is a safe way of doing that and then, there is the way, our rejuvenated driver was in the mood for.

The way he overtook these big lorries, it was clear that he had made a pact with Lord Yama of some sort, the previous night. He felt invincible. He was fiercely overtaking the on-coming trucks at close range and as soon as he had joined back the lane he was on, he lost no time in overtaking the next vehicle without even checking for a vehicle on the on-coming traffic lane.

This guy was getting a high, overtaking vehicles at such close quarters. My screams of OMGs and high pitched Nooooos!!! were fading out in the sound of the speed of the vehicle. I must have shrunk a considerable inch or two, during the drive as my heart kept skipping beat after beats as the driver recklessly overtook. Finally Hubby, put his foot down and demanded that he drive with caution.

What puzzled me was this driver’s decision to go slow on a road that was perfectly ok to drive faster..while go full throttle on a road that demanded some caution.

Driving on the local roads is another ball game. It’s a game of who succeeds in letting the other driver know, “I’m the aggressive one!”  It’s a game of who is going to bow down to whom. There is another kind of high the drivers get in this situation. Like yesterday’s incident.

We are going on the road and another car had to join the lane…First, the car sets out to join and when its just short of bumping into our vehicle…it would stop to check…or maybe NOT!  Both the drivers know that the other is approaching but, none has the right to give up and stop, you know!

They eventually will, when the vehicles are an epsilon distance of touching each other. Then they come to a sudden and jerky halt. Now, Begins the sizing up process begins!

Both the drivers will look at each other at this point and exchange telepathic messages…decisions such as,  if they should make their hair rise up ( like the cat does)  to appear bigger and stronger are taken. The one with the stronger, peering gaze continues to drive on while the other one looks on, mesmerized with the glow that he just saw in the other’s eyes.

And, what can one say about the two-wheelers. The way they fill up the gaps like water in sand…Add to this the puddles and man holes that one has to juggle. The monsoons!  The exercise of keeping the eyes open while one drives a two wheeler in rain with a wife at the back and a baby sleeping on the gas tank in the front!  

Its amazing to see how the traffic moves. There is a method in every they say, can be experienced perfectly on the streets of Hyderabad here!

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