Driving in Bangalore

… is a nightmare.

I had never really taken my car out in peak hour traffic. Of yes, there were those random weekends when i’d to get somewhere… but I was neither tired, nor was everyone else in a hurry… or I had people in the car with me… or the excitement of taking the car out for the first time. So discounting all that, I took the car out for the first time yesterday during peak hour traffic.

I knew when I got the car out in the morning I should’ve taken my bike. The wind was still a little cool and the sun just warming up to bake us all and I just took the car because my back hurt from riding the distance and I needed a new helmet.

So at 6.05 PM I finally headed out of the office. The road a little fuller than I was used to but having gotten adept at squeezing at whatever possible openings, I managed to get myself to the first bottleneck. I saw a huge Scorpio trying to make a u-turn – which was basically a spot where people had pulled out the stones to make some turns easier for them (read: illegal). The space wasn’t enough to squeeze in my little car, let alone that monster but the guy was determined, despite blocking the traffic for 5 minutes.

5 minutes doesn’t seem like much in the scheme of things but in peak hour traffic, the entire 3 km road can back up, which is what happened now. People leaned on the horn as they craned their necks to see what was happening. Bikes squeezed in anywhere they could – the pavement, the 2 inch of space between cars and buses. What was the hurry? Home is all they had to go! I turned up my music and stopped, figuring they would move when they do.

Cell phones – aren’t they banned when you are driving?

Such rules absolutely doesn’t seem to apply to people. Nor have they heard of lanyards, bluetooth or any such thing. So the phone rings – and I bet it is on vibrate mode – and the guy on the bike struggles one-handed to pull out the cell from the pocket of his overtight jeans… then he keeps on driving (read: zigzagging all across the road) while he shoves the phone in his helmet or worse, just starts talking like he is walking somewhere. And then he sees a cop at the end of the road on the right side and figures if he switches to the left side, the cop won’t see him or won’t bother stopping him (is it worse that this actually works). So he suddenly cuts across the road, despite what cars and bikes are coming. I mean, come on, why wouldn’t people stop for him. Honking doesn’t work. They’ve some device in their ears that just blocks out all such stupid noise.

So I went a little crazy drove almost the rest of the way with one hand on the horn. Apparently a long drawn blast of the horn does get people’s attention. Of course, most of the glances I got were of the “what are you getting worked up about” sorts. This is the way we drive apparently. With no order, no  regard to rules, squeezing through wherever we can find a gap.

Doesn’t it occur to anyone that it would be so much simpler if people followed lane discipline? At least on the main roads. Stick to the right if you are going right. Do not cross over all the way from the right to the left just as the light turns green and zoom across, cutting everyone off. Morons!

And there are roads which are dug up, or parts of a road which are dug up without a warning… So you manage to beat the traffic, overtake a moron talking on a cell hone from the left and are about to zoom when you have to break suddenly – and pray  you won’t be rear ended – because some idiot has decided to dig up the manhole and leave it open and the only on that is a piece of some shrub sticking out of it. And then you spend the next 15 minutes trying to head back into the traffic lane, trying to be polite with your indicator on… hoping some good soul will slow down and let you back into the traffic.

Of course such good souls are rarely present, which means you pull your socks up, put that hand back on the horn and swing into traffic, praying you won’t get slammed. Little scratches are perfectly acceptable. You can choose to stop and argue with the guy – creating a little more traffic but venting your day’s frustration – or shrug and just keep going.

I’m sure there is some God watching all those on the road. How else would you explain that cars don’t get dented (much) or there are as many rear-ending accidents as there should’ve been?

I finally managed to pull up outside my house, the car in pretty much the same state as I took it out but my mind completely frazzled with all the close calls. And I figured till i get used to the fact that the car next to me is closer than the two seats in my car and that is normal, the car stays in the garage.

Song of the day: Willie Nelson – On the Road Again

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