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Driving in India - A Field Guide

We’ve all seen those ha-ha lists of things you will see/hear only in xyz country. Some of them hit quite close to home. Driving in India is one of those things that is often mocked and rightly so. While many of these are often exaggerated, here are some things we Indians love to do and probably think is completely the right way to drive.

  1. Turn right from the extreme right side of the road into the road we are turning into.
  2. Turn left without slowing down or checking for traffic, preferably after hitting the horn at least once.
  3. Honk every 10 seconds.
  4. Spot a pedestrian trying to cross the road, speed up, hit the horn, and flip the headlights on to high.
  5. See a vehicle approaching who slows down and indicates he is turning right? React the same way as when you see a pedestrian. The temerity of these people to try and cross your path! How dare they!
  6. When looking for an address and you have to slow down, don’t worry about the traffic behind you. There’s no need to signal that you are slowing down or pulling to the left. Just stick to the middle of the road and crawl.
  7. Hand signals? Indicators? What are those? Are you telling me that the person behind can’t read my mind and knows exactly what I am going to do every second?
  8. Pedestrians and cyclists are lower lifeforms that need to be eliminated. Who let them out of the house? (Except of course when I have to walk down the road; then vehicles better play nice.)
  9. Pavements are an extension of the road. They are there for me to drive on when I feel like it or to park my precious vehicle. Repeat Point No 8.
  10. One-ways, no-entrys are applicable only from 6am to 10pm (if they are applicable at all).
  11. Sharing is caring. If there is an obstruction on your side of the road (eg. a parked vehicle, garbage bin, excavation by civic authorities) then obviously you have rights over half of the remaining road. The vehicle coming opposite must ‘adjust’.
  12. Those black, white, and yellow lines on the road are there for fun. The Traffic Police just paint them in whenever they are bored. They have nothing to do with me. I can stop my vehicle on it or even before it, but never behind it!
  13. Headlights are to be switched on only when I feel like - when I can’t see anything ahead or mostly when I want to terrorise others into giving me way. And of course there is only one mode for headlights - high beam.
  14. In an accident, the larger vehicle is always at fault.
  15. It’s okay to drive on the wrong side of the road if it’s for a short distance. (By following the rules and drive for another kilometre to legally U-turn, my carbon footprint would go through the roof! I cannot have that on my conscience!)
  16. Driving illegally on the wrong side of the road is made okay by incessant honking so traffic (vehicles and pedestrians) are aware of my presence and can give way.
  17. What do you mean those signals with the headlights are not actually legal signals? Aren’t they the universal Morse Code of the Highway?  
  18. Right of Way? What is that? My Car My Right to barrel down the road, you’d best be getting out my way, mister. I may grudgingly give way to an ambulance and of course a VIP, but not necessarily in that order.
  19. I can overtake on whichever side is convenient for me.
  20. In a traffic jam, it helps to honk constantly.

Of the many things we Indians can be proud of, our road sense is definitely not one of them. Why is it that the minute we step into another country we obey the rules but insist of flouting them at home? Do we value our lives and those of our fellow citizens so little?

While the system has its faults and our licensing procedure leave a lot to be desired, some things are just common sense. Do we not have the intelligence to think about the obvious rules such as not honking in a traffic jam or using our indicators when switching lanes or turning? No one needs to teach us those, surely. Time for us to take responsibility for our behaviour on the roads and make jokes such as these a relic of the past.

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