Sunday, May 8, 2011

Bangalore Driving - Highway to Hell

"no stop sign, speed limit" ... but there are a hell of a lot of speed bumps.  I've mentioned previously the insane symphony that is Bangalore traffic and the rules under which it operates (link here), but I spent about 3 hours yesterday as a passenger in a hotel driver hired minivan crawling, accelerating, standing still, nudging, squeezing, perilously dodging from Eastern Bangalore (Whitefield) to Central and West Central Bangalore from 10am to 6pm. 

Only once did I see a minor altercation, when in stopped traffic, a male pedestrian was bumped by a auto-rickshaw, and the pedestrian in turn GRABBED the auto-rickshaw driver's arm, and yelled at him in response.  The whole altercation lasted all of 10 seconds and quickly de-escalated as the traffic continued to nudge forward. 

The pathetically under powered and un-maintained autorickshaws spew  the worst smoke, on par with large TATA trucks (or lorries) that belch black smoke into the air.  All motorcycle drivers are supposed to wear helmets, but none of the passengers have to - I saw a family of 4 at one point, all crowded on a motor bike.  Young men, mostly in their 20s often flaunted the law, riding around without any head protection.  I called them "squids" and "organ donors" to my Indian colleagues, and one of them admitted "I do not use a helmet either" (he is not yet 30). Neither of them wanted to wear seat belts either, but I implored them - 'guys, don't make me waste my investment of time and energy on developing you, only to find yourself killed or brain dead in an auto accident'.  They both complied, with me sitting less than a meter away.

I took multiple pictures and mpeg video of various traffic photo worthy sites, but I forgot to bring the XD card adapter, and I've already figured out a XD card DOES NOT fit in a SD card slot - it goes in, but it doesn't come out without the help of tweezers (or 'pluckers' as they are called here) and lots of patience - so uploads will have to wait until my return later this week. 

I used to tense up and get stressed in such traffic in China, but I've learned to relax and just go with the flow.  The traffic DOES move like some kind of hive, or extended organism, where the only REAL rule of the road is "KNOW PRECISELY what each and every person is doing and what they intend to do next".  At one  point on the way back to the hotel yesterday evening a doggy was limping on 3 legs  across the road from right to left sides, holding up one paw, and our driver screeched to a halt to allow the canine to pass. I reflexively, casually, and with a feeling of inevitable dread, turned to look behind us and to the left where autorickshaws and motorbikes routinely try to pass, and a green and yellow rickshaw's metal-on-metal brakes SQUEALED as the driver Just missed the pooch.  That was the closest near-fatality all day that I saw, but the roads here would have given my mother a stroke to travel even one kilometer.

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