Driving Like Dummies 1 - Traffic in India

India's roads and driving culture are one for the books. You will be hard-pressed to find a place anywhere on earth where pure chaos and lawlessness prevails on the roads as so much as it does in India. Almost none of the rules that apply when driving a vehicle on public roads are followed here, sometimes out of ignorance but more often out of sheer arrogance and "I don't give a damn"-ism. People just, you know, take their vehicles and drive forwards (most of the time) when they gotta get somewhere. More like the universal pee law:

How To Drive in India - Like You Want to!

Drive on the left, right or center of the road, disregard any markings, traffic symbol and/or signal and go any way irrespective of entry barriers. Cut all corners, jump medians and signals, go against oncoming traffic, drive at whatever speeds you want to, on any part of any lane or road or shoulders or footpaths or wherever you want to and in whichever direction you want to. Honk your heads off. Do NOT allow anyone to overtake you under any circumstances whatsoever. If someone does, chase them down. It is a race which you and your ego have to win at any cost. Oh and don't forget to double-park wherever it will cause the most inconvenience to everyone else. The only goal here is somehow make it to your destination, in whatever way possible. So much so that someone had once hilariously pointed out:

[quote]You don't drive in India. You just point your vehicle in the general direction you want to go.[/quote]

Swalpa Adjust Maadi. Bangalore.

We all know the story: Exponential growth in the number of vehicles, infrastructure being unable to keep up with that growth because of uninterested Governments, corrupt politicians and hence roads being the pits and so on. People complain about the state of roads in India and traffic conditions here, and how "good" and "enjoyable" conditions in 'phoren' countries are: De-congested, wide, clean and marked roads where vehicles "zip" along and everyone enjoys a good drive. Typical like how we are, we ignore the fact that people over "there" drive and behave on the road without wavering a millimeter from the set rules of the road, which is the real reason for all the "goodness" and "enjoyability" they enjoy there. This is the same reasons why they are developed and we are stuck in the rut. Yes, "good" roads help too, but we have our share of good roads here which can compare easily to the best roads in the West. Has anyone driven on the Bangalore - Chennai/Salem route? The Salem bypass in TN? Other beautiful stretches along the GQ? Driving culture in all these places is still the pits. Anyone who thinks that if all roads in India were to be transformed into Deutsche Autobahnen one fine morning then we would start disciplined driving like the Germans do should get their head out of the clouds. We all want 10 lane Express Highways so that we can zoom away our Altos and i10s at 140 kph, again, throwing all rules to the wind. And that is just the beginning of our sense of entitlement. Wikipedia Says:

[quote]Driving in traffic is more than just knowing how to operate the mechanisms which control the vehicle; it requires knowing how to apply the rules of the road[/quote]

Forget knowing the rules of the road, many people do not know even know to "operate the mechanisms which control the vehicle" properly. Just take a look at cars struggling to get up any steep incline at a mall exit, cars crawling along at 20kph in the bang center of the road or people taking off considerable chunks off concrete pillars trying to park. "Chalaana hai to 'asselerator' dabao, rukna hai to brake maaro! Bas!" Hell yeah! We all know how to drive. Each one of us is an uncrowned master of the driving Universe, a walking, talking encyclopaedia of righteousness and everyone else is a sub-human, illiterate moron who probably never properly learned to drive and definitely got their licenses bribing the RTO. That is another story altogether.

Rules? The less said, the better. None of us have ever learned what the rules of the road really are, other than having to drive on the left side of the road and (maybe) stop at red signals. Lane driving? Are you kidding? You mean to say there is a rule that says we should not fill every centimeter of the road with vehicles? Who has priority at a junction? Me! Who is allowed to drive in the inside lane on a multi-lane highway? Me, again! When is overtaking from the left allowed? When I am driving, of course! With all of our self-righteousness, hypocrisy, egotism, disregard for the law and others and inflated self-importance, roads in India are a showcase for the World to see in live action about all that is wrong with us. Add to that increasing cases of road rage, people ready to kill for a small scratch. Yes, those imbeciles who are foolish enough to question your all-pervasive knowledge and dent your ego should be punished with death!

"Jaante ho, main kaun hoon??!!"

There is an argument which says that the sheer density of vehicles in India are far more than any law or rule or road can contain. No. the number of vehicles are still manageable, it is the infrastructure that cannot cope and the laws that are not enforced. And if you look at it, I would say 80% of vehicles don't venture outside 100 km radius of their garages they were brought in, and not more than once every 6 months. Look at the highways, they are still full of trucks and buses.

There is traffic chaos in all countries of the world, but never as unregulated, un-policed and seamless as it is in India. Blame it on any number of factors, but there are only two things that can be accountable for the mess that are the roads in India: One is the government or associated civic bodies who are responsible for infrastructure development, and the second is everyone one, each one of us who use the road and of our stiff-butt refusal to follow any kind of rules. The least civic sense that people should have while using any public space, the understanding that it equally belongs to everyone else using it, is missing. As the often used adage goes: "Yes, the road belongs to my father."

Stay tuned, this is only the first part in a series. More coming! :)

Next: Part 2 - A Car is Not an Investment!

Part 3: The Story of the India Car Industry

Part 4: Story of the Indian Car Buyer Part 1

Part 5: Story of the Indian Car Buyer Part 2

Part 6: "Of Course I Know how to Drive!"

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