Saturday, July 25, 2009

Driving to Breakfast

Driving in India, 101

I wonder if I should even be writing about this to you.  I know after you read this you will kindly, and maybe even urgently, advise me to stop this silly nonsense of driving in India.  But alas you also know I will most likely continue to ride the roads.

So it’s like this:  In the West we drive on the right side.  In India they drive on the left.  But in Barmer, a special sub-section of India, they drive in the middle!  It’s easy to understand why. For the most part the culture here in Barmer, as I’ve noted before, is still caught in a pre-technology past. The road/path ways of those times did not have lines down the middle or any right of way considerations.  Everyone walked or drove their carts down the middle of the path and passed when necessary. All shared the road.  And so you still see this kind of behaviour here.  People will walk in the middle of the road while motor cycles, cars and busses zip by and around them.  Even where there are road dividers for the left and right, you always have to pay attention to what is coming at you.  You don’t have a “side of the road right of way”.  You don’t have any right of way.  This is not the same in the larger cities like Delhi, although you do find some of the same “discrepancies” there as well form time to time. In any case what I have discovered about driving here, which has been difficult for me to absorb, is that you only have to be concerned with what is in front of you or to your left. Again, this rule is not always practiced, but it generally works. Ok let’s say you are on a side street and you come to an intersection (no stop signs here to be concerned about and traffic lights have not yet been invented) and you are turning left, into the left lane.  In this case you just go ahead, you don’t look to the right to see if any traffic are coming at you, you fully expect them to allow you to merge.  No fear.  Well I don’t buy that and I always check to my right, and when there is a potential collision I slow down, which in turn causes the expectation of the other drivers, that I should get right in front of them, to be blown and everyone looks a bit confused and pedestrians wonder what the Krishna is going on. I’m getting better at it but these days, but due to the unusual rain fall we have been having, the roads towards the bottom of the city are about a foot deep in brown sewage water, and this makes navigation very difficult no matter what the rules aren’t. I saw one guy on a motor cycle drive into a hole that he couldn’t see, as it was under the water. Everyone watching cheered.  He was ok, but his bike was totally submerged. There are lots of such holes that are also invisible at the night when the roads are dry.  Ok, then there is turning to the right at an intersection.  This is much more dangerous for everyone. First of all you cut the corner on the right, so that if other vehicles are turning left onto your side road, you are now on the right side of them.  Then you head into oncoming traffic, like a salmon swimming upstream,  until you can find an opening to the left.  If you turned into a divided roadway, then you might have to travel a bit into oncoming traffic until there is an opening. So recall once again why it is you have to pay attention to what is ahead of you.

Rules of size.  Yes, the bigger you are the more status you have on the roads. Hence, if you are driving a large truck or bus you rule.  Only military vehicles take precedence over everyone else.  So I’m driving down the road just outside of Barmer and a truck ahead, coming towards me, is passing a cart.  The truck coming right at me flashes his lights and I am forced to the side shoulder (that is if there is one, or it is not being taken up by a cow or people). This is typical and that’s why you watch for what is in front of you.  So it’s military vehicles, trucks and busses first, and then cars and then motor cycles, followed by bicycles, carts (of all type, ie: camel, oxen, goat, horse, donkey, and humans). At the bottom of the list is people, they have no rights but you don’t want to hit them either.  One great exception to all of the above, never hit a cow. You’d be better off to hit a person than a cow, I have been told this many times, so I have to believe it. Recall, there are more cows in Rajasthan than people.  Maybe that’s because they are less likely to be involved in a traffic accident.


Breakfast of Indians

The Sharma’s (Satish [father], Pawan [mother], Supriya [daughter 20yo], Kushboo [daughter 17yo] and Niku [son 11yo] who were my neighbours until recently invited me to breakfast at their new home.  It was rice with assorted vegetables mixed together (including hot chilli peppers) and coffee. I’ve had this before at Vishal’s house and elsewhere. It’s good but I’m not that fond of this for breakfast.  Let’s just call it a cultural difference.  So I invited them for breakfast, Canadian style.  As it was easier for me to go to their house than the lot of them come to me, I packed up bag with all the ingredients I needed and biked over to their house through the sewage lakes (a.k.a. streets).  The typical Canadian breakfast I presented to them was porridge (oats) with slices of mango and bananas and an optional sweet lassie, plus coffee (Indian style). No maple syrup available. I didn’t actually make the breakfast, Pawanji would not let me in her kitchen, so I just gave her instructions on how to make the porridge (with salt and sugar).  I also brought my own bowls and spoons for them as I knew they didn’t have these, so we all sat and ate porridge with cut fruit on top.  Pawanju ate in the kitchen.  They said it was tasty. Oats in Hindi is Javi.

Pass carefully. Driver spits. (that’s another thing to watch for.)



1 comment:

  1. Whadya mean "in the West we drive on the right side?" Aren't the UK and Ireland in the West?! Actually, in Ireland they are planning to change. For a week all cars are going to drive on the right. If that's successful, they'll extend the test to trucks ;-)

    Nice post, by the way!
    Clive in Kerala

    PS, Passengers spit too!