A Passage in India
Apparently the most dangerous road in Britain is somewhere in the Peak District. Really? Dangerous is a relative word of course. In the Peak District you could hit another car, a sheep maybe or even go off the road.
In India the order of magnitude of an “off” is quite “off” the scale. A live-killer-video game. There are several factors at work here, and the first is etiquette. You may think that there is none in India but in fact there is. It’s just that as westerners we don’t know what it is, which makes for an interesting journey, and also it’s why I am not driving.
You can take your entire family for a day out, wife riding side saddle, babe asleep in arms and junior(s) astride the tank of your 125cc Honda Hero, and so long as you wear a helmet that’s ok. No one else has to and no one even has to wear shoes. It’s all ok and no one takes a blind bit of notice because it’s all they have, so it’s what they do.
Like Touch Rugby, getting about is all about anticipation, where will you go next and where do they want to go? First in wins. The critical thing here is that it’s expected. It’s like trying to control a school of fish. Impossible, so let them go. If you swim into one you just get swallowed up, enveloped and disappear into the throng unnoticed.
Tolerance is the key. We are meant to have it but we don’t. If the Indian motoring fraternity didn’t have it then it would be the Khyber Pass conflict on every stretch of road, which oddly it isn’t.
When there is an accident, and of course there are plenty, lorries fold up or turn over, and people die, often. Thousands of people gather round and argue as to who did what and when and whose fault it was None of this is ever down to bad driving but just sheer numbers…of everything……Cars, bikes, three wheeled Piaggio autos with 20 people crammed in, cows, bullocks, sheep and mopeds with gas canisters strapped to the sides, a modified motorcycle ridden by a man with no legs, and in one bizarre sighting a hog tied goat being taken astride a Honda Hero on its way to the Friday ritual slaughter along with the entire family. So in other words chaos, but it’s the chaos theory that allows it to work. Heaven forbid rules as that just would not work.
If it took the same amount of time for them to clear the road after an accident here in England it would create the mother of all jams and probable more deaths than there is now. “Is that your tethered goat Stirling?”
In India they just use the other carriageway, with no one telling them. Move a barrier and get on with it. Job done. Not saying it’s safe, clever or right but it keeps the traffic flowing, just perhaps not all in the same direction!
So, sat as I am in the back of my Renault Mahindra thing, with the God Ganesha on the dashboard, listening to jazz swaying in and out of the brightly decorated Lorries in the dark with no rear lights, missing dashing pedestrians trying to cross the unlit road, horns blaring and lights flashing, we can’t be doing more than 40 miles per hour surely. The terror is real. I should know but the speedo is not working so it’s just a guess. The feeling is surreal, almost apocalyptic, just no helicopters. Or drugs, sadly!
India has far too many people in a relatively small space to have rigid rules and some might say too many people to have a democracy with or without rules, which oddly we Brits introduced at the heady time of the Raj. So now India makes it up as it goes along. It has to. Like we are now in England. What goes around comes around, apparently
This many people needs another system, or perhaps less Englishmen!