Driving in India – Part 2

by Sahadev Komaragiri

Once, when I was in my tenth class, I was riding my bicycle along with a friend of mine. To avoid the zooming bus that was coming at us, I swirled my bicycle slightly to the left and hit a hefty person going in the same direction as my cycle. He was well built and fits the description of a local goon. He did not know what hit him and why. When he turned around, without a second thought he delivered a tight-fisted blow on the faces of both of us. I was riding the cycle and my friend did not have anything to do with the incident but somehow our victim decided that he too deserved a blow. We were not seriously hurt, neither was he. All we could do was say sorry and move out of the scene as quickly as possible.

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

Whenever there is a traffic incident, who is at fault depends on several factors. In case there is an injury, the person who is hurt the most is not at fault. If there is no injury but there is some damage to one of the vehicles involved, then the person whose vehicle is most damaged is at least fault. However it gets very interesting in all the other cases.

It is always the fault of the person who is driving the heaviest of the vehicles involved. That is why whenever there is an accident involving a heavy vehicle, such as a bus or a heavy transport vehicle, the driver flees the scene even if he is not at fault. You see, in most cases the public can take law into their own hands. So, here is the sequence. If a cyclist hits a pedestrian, the cyclist is at fault. If a motor bike hits a cyclist, it is the fault of the person driving the bike. If a person driving a car hits a motor bike, the car driver is clearly at fault. If a public transportation bus hits a car, it is clearly the fault of the bus driver. If you are driving a flashy car, you are always at fault no matter what happens. The rich are perceived to be arrogant and rash drivers. There is clearly some logic behind all this. Thanks to the respect that women have in our society, the fairer sex is never at fault.

The public have a clear say in all these matters. They are at the scene of the accident and they are the ones who decide who is at fault. The people involved in the accident hurl abuses at each other even as the public tries to calm them down. In the mean time, the entire stretch of road is at a standstill and everyone is honking continuously in a frantic fit of rage. Continuous honking pressurizes the people to resolve the problem quickly. You might be curious to know the role of the police officers. There is no role for them. In many of the cases, the police expect the people to resolve it among themselves. The resolution, supported by the public, results in each of the person heading back to their respective vehicles and move on. They will have their own explanation to do if and when they call their insurance companies for a claim.

Indians have unbelievable levels of tolerance against stupidity.

Every person driving in India invariably thinks that every other driver is a complete idiot. This is illustrated by the fact that there is constant honking on the streets, exchange of obscene gestures, harsh words and in some extreme cases some blows. But in most cases, driving is fun especially when you are seated next to an angry person who has a good sense of humor. After a near miss, these are some of the most common things that you hear: “Bro, you almost died. Did you inform your family members that you are not coming back?”, “If you have decided to die, why don’t you pick some other vehicle and leave me alone?” In other extreme close calls, the drivers lower their windows, shout at each other and move on. As they move on, the driver continues to express his anger until he reaches his destination. He blames everything starting from the congested roads, broken legal system and all the way up to the Prime Minister of India who he thinks is unfit to rule this great country. The other driver is perhaps doing the same!

The most important thing that you need when you are driving in India is a working honking mechanism. It does not matter if the brakes are in working condition or not, but the horn must be in good condition. A vehicle backing up should also make a special sound or play some special music. This special music ends up being the tune of our national anthem or the tune of some patriotic song. When you are driving the vehicle, being heard is the most important thing. That is why some of the vehicles are fitted with a horn that makes weirdly different sounds. You should honk when you are about to reach an intersection, overtaking someone, a vehicle is overtaking you, a pedestrian who is crossing the road even though he knows you are coming at him, a cow or some other animal is crossing the street you are going on, and last not but not least you should honk just to check if it is working or not. The sad story of a very old run down kind of a vehicle is the one in which every part of the vehicle makes some kind of tattering sound but the horn makes no sound at all.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Sreeram May 8, 2012 at 7:42 pm

Lol! Sometimes the person at fault is the quieter or the meeker one – I have seen cases where a guy who is clearly at fault hits another vehicle, but before the recipient could react, he throws abuses and escapes the scene 🙂



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