Someone should make a movie, the ‘Bollywood of Driving in India’, maybe Jeremy Clarkson!

4 Apr

By guest writer Stuart Elliott

Red lights at intersections seem to confuse most Indian drivers, who presumably think they are advertising a red light (as in ladies of the night) district, as rarely do they take a blind bit of notice. 

Talking of blind, our taxi into Jaipur from the airport, the ‘air conditioned limo service’, was driven by someone who clearly had a medical condition with his neck. He never turned it, not once, and especially not at intersections. Presumably he didn’t want to see the mayhem and carnage he was causing as he weaved in and out of lanes and charged in front of oncoming vehicles horn blaring. The car of course didn’t have functioning seat belts (not ideal when you are on blood thinners), and once the driver established that we wouldn’t be requiring his guided tour of the sights he switched the air con off (it was 36 deg C at the time). We wrongly assumed we were nearly at our destination so didn’t remonstrate.

Still on the theme of blindness, but this time blind as in hair pin bends. We were so impressed with the skill of the manoeuvre, I am about to describe, that it defies description. As we approached said bend in a mountain pass in Rajasthan in our little Suzuki Swift taxi, a bus was approaching from the other end of the bend. Then quick as you like, just as if he did it every day (and apparently he does), our driver moves over to the wrong side of the road. (We are now approaching a precipice on the wrong side of the road and expecting to become intimately acquainted with a bus (repetition dear reader is allowable when emotionally stressed). We were about to have a cardiac arrest when the bus driver swings past us, also on the wrong side of the road. Then almost disappointingly we both return to the correct side of the road and continue on a more conventional trajectory. Interestingly all this was done without the use of a hooter or any rude language. A case of two negatives make a positive or two wrongs make it alright (just).

Not really on the subject of blind, but some people might be moved in the circumstances to say “are you blind?”, we had to bribe our drivers to not play chicken on single lane country roads with dirt edges. It’s some kind of macho bullshit to determine who gives way first, and surprisingly it’s not always the smallest vehicle. It’s usually performed at a relative velocity of about 160 km per hour whilst looking into the whites of the eyes of the oncoming driver. Somebody should do a PhD on the subject, or perhaps several. 

 Helmets and seat belts are for wimps, despite road signs exhorting drivers to use them. On one occasion when negotiating the hiring of a taxi for the morning (they are cheap) and demanding seat belts, that actually function, I was told “Oh you don’t need those in India”. Sadly the individual wasn’t joking. 

  Yes, he has pushed his bike under the crossing barrier to cross the train tracks, despite a red warning signal.

Once you have alerted a vehicle in front of you that you are behind them by hooting you can do what you like by way of overtaking/pushing them off the road. 

 Who needs brakes just as long as your horn makes more noise than everybody else’s.
At busy city intersections the LEFT hand (inside) lane is the place to be if you want to turn RIGHT. (Yes you read that right, or do I mean left). Don’t know why I’ve never tried that myself back home. 

  The sugar cane juice man rides his crushing machine on the road to set up – at 15k/hr.  

 Speed bumps are placed after pedestrian crossings to slow you down after you have mown down the pedestrian, whom you had hooted at, and who was therefore at fault for not getting out of the way. 

 Three lane highways need to be seen to be believed….

-The outside lane, reserved in most countries for fast moving vehicles, is taken by a continuous stream of trucks and buses (they need the extra width because they are overloaded and leaning over at 30 degrees).

-The central lane is for cars with horns blaring. The more expensive the car the faster it has to go.

-The inside lane is for tractors, four-up scooters, and cars coming the wrong way taking a short cut. We even saw one car swerving at speed in and out of the two inside lanes going in the wrong direction, obviously training as a stunt driver for the next James Bond film. 


Talking of training, we saw one young person having a driving lesson with the entire family in the back seat (no seat belts of course). On reflection that is probably an exaggeration, since the average family size is still about six and they only had four on the back seat (in a Suzuki Swift.)

If you are most able or capable of paying a toll then of course you are excused (the ‘VIP List’, which includes chief ministers, judges etc. runs to 52 categories).

Beware the sacred cows ambling across the road in search of greener grass on the central reserve (pasture would be a less than accurate description of what is on offer to most Indian cows where we went, and I do like to be accurate!). We saw a calf injured by a car, a very expensive penalty for the driver. Then there was the scooter carrying 30 odd trussed, plucked, dead chickens. Quite a feat.  The only time we saw the traffic police doing anything other than lounging around (not that I would be doing anything more in 35-40 degrees heat inhaling god knows what) was to check our taxi’s papers.
Lastly if you are thinking of hiring a vehicle for your travels in India, then apart from the obvious but unadventurous advice of ‘Don’t Do It’, the coolest vehicles are scooters and Royal Enfield motorcycles. Of course you must be suitably clad:
-Open-faced helmet half on without the strap done up so you have to bend your head back to be able to see, or hanging on your handlebars rather than on your head.
-A long scarf (as long as you ride fast enough it won’t catch in the spokes and throttle you)

– Jeans with pre-prepared (for when you fall off) holes in the knees.

– T shirt (why bother?!)

– Flip flops, or is it more cool to say thongs? Either way you will no longer think them cool when you hit the dirt.

And on that note I will go and finish preparing for my motorcycle tour of the Alps, a marginally (I hope) safer activity than the above!


2 Responses to “Someone should make a movie, the ‘Bollywood of Driving in India’, maybe Jeremy Clarkson!”

  1. havetubawilltravel April 5, 2016 at 11:46 am #

    The madness of Indian driving – I forgotten how fun it was!

    • Sharon Tickle April 5, 2016 at 1:33 pm #

      Alison, Stuart chortled when I read your comment to him. He didn’t find it funny when he was white knuckled in the car but time heals all wounds. Sxx

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