Driving in India – Part 1

by Sahadev Komaragiri

Driving in India can be both fun and nerve racking. I drove a two wheeler for about 4 months before I decided to get a four wheeler. Before we bought a car we went to the school on our two-wheeler. It was very hot and dusty along the track. The route was frequented by stone quarry and sand transporting heavy vehicles. Those heavy vehicles kick a lot of dust from the road and you can get blinded within a few moments. The road is also a walk way for the village buffaloes, cows and sheep. After some deliberations and deep thinking we knew that we were going to feel much safer if we were inside the closed doors of a four wheeler. In November, 2011 we bought a car.

This is the fifth article in my series of articles on Living in India.

Before buying this car, I never drove a car in India, never! So when we bought the car in Vijayawada which is about 50 kilometers from our house, the car dealer arranged for a driver to get us home in our new car. I asked the driver to allow me to drive on the high way. I drove for about 20 minutes covering over 20 kilometers. That was the real first time that I was driving a car in India. Another first was that the car has a stick shift gear system. I drove a stick shift in the U.S a couple of times and it was not a very pleasant experience. I thought the world at some point will irreversibly use automatic transmission vehicles. Lo, I am now driving a stick shift and I now fully understand the virtues of driving a stick shift vehicle.

The very same evening, after returning to our home town, I ventured to drive to our school at about 7:30 PM. It was akhanda bhajan day at our school, so we were going to stay overnight at our school. As soon as we reached the school, all the boys and girls surrounded our car. The students were all shouting “Sir, we need a party”, “Teacher, we need a party”. We agreed and moved on to take part in the akhanda bhajans, devotional singing, that started at 6 PM and lasted until 6 AM the next day. The next morning we returned home. The car stopped a couple of times each way because I kept forgetting that I had to use both the feet to manage a stick shift vehicle, but it was not too bad. The most embarrassing moments are when I go to the passenger seat side when I actually intend to get into the driver seat. I am still doing that. I am yet to get to grip with the fact that the steering is on the right side. Thankfully, I am fully used to the fact that I should drive on the left side of the road and not on the right side! A friend of mine used to say this: ” in the U.S we drive on the right side, in India you drive on the wrong side.”

Driving in a small town or a village is not a big deal. I used that space for getting used to driving in India. Later, I drove to Vijayawada a couple of times. A few months later I was ready for an adventure and I drove all the way to my hometown, Hyderabad, which is about 240 kilometers away. The traffic conditions in Hyderabad are typical of any big city in India, chaotic and almost lawless. It was not a pleasant experience at all. I almost took a vow to not come back to Hyderabad in my car, ever again. But here I am, I just reached Hyderabad on my four-wheeler and I am driving around the city with fewer inhibitions albeit very cautious. On my first trip I had two close calls, both the times I would have been entirely faultless if it were in the U.S. Since it is India, I was almost faultless but not entirely. The “not entirely” part is mainly because I am not too used to unexpected sudden shift in the movement of two wheelers, three wheelers and speeding four wheelers. It is impossible to speed on city roads, but not so for certain individuals, it is just that I am not too used to that kind of crazy driving. No matter how experienced a driver you are, your driving skills will always be put to test. Even if you are prepared to handle all situations, you will suddenly encounter a situation that you never encountered before. All things are possible!

If you have side mirrors, you have to fold them inwards lest they get damaged on congested city roads. If you don’t do it yourself others will do it for you. Just drive slowly on a road and pedestrian will push it inwards because he is unable to walk through the narrow space between your car and the car next to yours. It happened to me several times.

A few more things to talk about, but that has to wait for part 2

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Sri Pang May 3, 2012 at 9:29 am

The most embarrassing moments are when I go to the passenger seat side when I actually intend to get into the driver seat.

” in the U.S we drive on the right side, in India you drive on the wrong side.”



Padmasree May 3, 2012 at 11:39 am

Long back (may be 15 years)when I was in Hyderabad, I use to take my mother’s hand and cross the road. Because it is big deal for her to cross the road. Now when ever I visit India, I’m in my mothers situation. I’m holding someone’s hand with lot of fear and crossing the road. But still I love to walk in that dust and look at people faces. It still makes me feel proud that I’m a Bharath.


Prasad May 6, 2012 at 10:31 am

Nice one. Fond memories 🙂
Keep blogging


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