The Logical Philosopher

Friday, January 08, 2010

Holy Cow! (India part 1)

Shortly after this point in the trip I honestly thought I was going to die...

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I arrived into Bangalore, India, on a Friday evening. Almost 35 hours of travelling non-stop had me wiped, but I was determined to let the timing work for me as my arrival time gave me 2 days to explore the city before starting work on Monday morning. Because the trip was planned at the last minute, I didn't really have any expectations (good or bad) to set myself up for. The only thing I really wasn't prepared for was the traffic. Specifically the masses of traffic and polar opposite amount of regard for traffic rules:

The traffic pictures you see here was a pretty typical scene, but the best I saw was a family of 4 on a motor-cycle (and a family of 5 in a tuk-tuk). They just sandwiched the kids in-between the parents on the bike. The rest of the time most of the women rode side-saddle, with their scarves hanging down looking like they are about to be spun into the gears of the bike at any moment. Busses passed carts pulled by donkeys, and road construction warnings consisted of a simple orange cone placed about 3 feet in front of a massive hole or pile of dirt... and the orange cone was optional in most casts.

There were some serious points I thought I was going to die in a grizzly traffic accident, but it (almost) never happened. The one time it did was the night I was riding with a coworker in a tuk-tuk. Imagine a 2 stroke scooter with a 2 person cab on the back, and then masses of traffic just moving around you. Cars just use the road lines as a suggested guide. No, wait. They don't actually use road lines. The mantra is a mix of: "honk to pass" , "fit 3.5 cars into a 2 lane road" and "if you need to go down the 1 way road the wrong way, that's ok as long as you keep honking".

Our driver was going down the middle of the street - more on the "wrong" side than the "right" - and a motor cycle decided to pass on our right. Unfortunately the car coming at us didn't have enough room to pass on the left so it just nonchalantly swerved in front of us, honked, and tried to pass on the right...which was exactly where the motorcycle was. It was at this point I thought I honestly thought I was going to die a wicked death on the streets of Bangalore. Tires screeched, bodies flew and our driver just gunned it and deftly maneuvered around any flying debris. After a moment the driver let off his throttle and peered back. "No problem sir! Just the motorcycle, not us!" he seemed to scream at us. With that he spun back around and promptly gunned it towards our final destination.

Yet it was just another day on the Banglore streets for our driver...