Road Rules: India

India, Lost Girls RTW Adventure — By on September 24, 2006 at 6:48 am

The Lost Girls have been in northern India for just four days, and have already witnessed our first traffic accident. Frankly, we’re surprised we didn’t see a collision sooner, given the fact that mopeds, trucks, cabs, cows and elephants all share the same roadways.

And we’re thanking the gods we weren’t involved in a fender bender ourselves: The driver we hired, Sunil, constantly played a game of chicken with all the other road warriors.

While on a tour of the Golden Triangle (which winds between the ancient cities of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur), we dodged death when Sonil passed a bunch of mopeds on an uphill curve as a huge bus sped around the corner in the opposite lane. He jerked the wheel, almost took out the bikers and narrowly missed a head-on collision with the bus. The best part? The seat belts didn’t work. Awesome.

(Mom, if you happen to be reading this, I can already hear the hour-long lecture I’m going to get about being careful, so you don’t even have to say it. Besides, taking a bus would have been more dangerous).

But I digress. The accident we witnessed involved a Jeep hitting a motorcycle that carried a man, woman and baby (sans helmets!). We watched in horror as the mother slid off the seat-arms protectively wrapped around the infant-and landed on her back on the pavement. Amazingly, both she and her baby seemed OK, apart from a few minor scrapes. The man, however, was pinned under the hot bike with the wheels still spinning.

Before we could see if he was badly injured, Sonil informed us that the driver of the Jeep who caused the accident was going to be beaten. Sure enough, what seemed like hundreds of men appeared as an angry roadside mob, opened the driver’s door and proceeded to pull him out.

Sunil started honking like mad as he maneuvered around the growing mob and quickly sped away. “What’s going on?” I asked in confusion.

“If you hit people, you drive away fast. If you don’t, the men will beat you in payment for the accident. You only have five seconds in India,” he said. “If you don’t drive away more fast, people will hit your head until you have blood and must go to the hospital.”

“What? You mean you’re supposed to hit and run?” I ask, incredulous.

“Yes! If you hit someone and kill them, you drive more fast. If you’re too slow, the crowd will beat you very bad. You may have to kill two, three more people in the way, but you drive fast,” he explains.

“What?” This seems to be my knee-jerk, astonished response. “But what if you lock your doors and roll up your windows?”

“Then they break the windows with stones and pull you out.”

“What about the police? Won’t the police arrest the driver-and protect him from the angry mob?”

“No, the police can’t do anything. But if the driver has a gun, the police or the mob will run away.”

It’s complete anarchy! “Um, OK. But what happens to the guy who gets beaten? Does he die?”

“No, he just has a lot of blood. And he has to pay in cash at the hospital for the man, woman and child’s bills and for their broken bike.”

“But what if he doesn’t have the money?”

“Then they keep his Jeep and he has to take a bus home.”

Riiiight. All we can say is that driving in India gives a whole new meaning to the concept of road rage. We lived to tell the tale-and we hope the driver did, too.
Holly

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    11 Comments

  • Guru Panguji says:

    Yo!!

    Been following you guys since you asked me to do a link exchange program. The fact that my link didn’t appear on your blog roll is not the problem!!

    I am from India. Been through a lotta places in India. And just had to clarify certain aspects of Indian traffic. :-D!!

    1. Yes, the roads are terrible and traffic rules are not followed exactly.

    2. The Road Rage you mention however is _not_ true.

    3. Nobody beats you if you hit someone on the road, unless you yourself create a ruckus or try to actually HIT AND RUN!!!

    4. People do flock to the scene, however, unlike what Sunil says, they are not coming to beat the only conscious person on the accident scene. There are people who immediately call the medical services and the police so that emergency aid rushes to the scene.

    5. If you HIT and RUN, chances of your getting caught is less, definitely, India has other problems to worry, but people DO NO DO THAT!! Of all the people I know, they immediately stop, and check on the people who they have hit and rush them to the emergency if need be!!

    6. The Sunil guy has been feeding you pieces of information which is NOT to be generalised for the country of India and its people.

    7. Sunil started honking like mad as he maneuvered around the growing mob and quickly sped away. It was this selfish act of his that made him tell all the lies to you in the first place – to cover up his cowardice and lack of sense to help the people out.

    You guys were in a truck/Qualis I presume. Consequently in the accident scene, any fourwheeler is asked to wait sothat in caseof any medical emergencies, the people could be rushed to the nearest hospital. Sunil obviously didn’t wanna take that responsibility or even CHANCE that responsibility!

    8. About the people keeping his jeep and all – first off – unless the police arrives into the scene, the jeep wouldn’t even move from there, people assure that much. They do just want justice. And of course, the conscious man initially pays for the well-being of his fellow human being!

    Anyhoo, at the end of it, I somehow feel that Sunil’s theory of Indian traffic and road-range should NOT be told to the world as how Indian road rules are. It’s wrong, dead wrong, well at least the part of people coming and beating the conscious man to a bloody mess and all!! Trust me!! It’s WRONG!!

    I just hope that you’d add a mention that this is what a DRIVER there – a tour guide there told you in the post. Please, else it is tarnishing the image of a country, based on what someone said.

    I sincerely apologize if I had seemed rude at any point in this comment, however, I just wanted to clear up the facts. :-)!

    Thanks!! Enjoy India otherwise. Where else in India are ya guys planning to go now?

  • M says:

    Dear Lord, I just pray that you girls get home safe and sound. No matter how anyone drives,or talks,or dances,or comes across–stay safe and use your common sense. I am glad that you had a driver-it was a wise move. Sunil may have been a wild driver,but you are here to talk about the experience! Guru’s input was interesting-hopefully he is right.

  • Evolution of gina says:

    It’s the internet! We can trust everyone riiiiiight???? Just kidding.

    Hey, girls! Just a hello!

  • jennifer weisz says:

    two words about driving in india: systematic chaos.

  • The Lost Girls says:

    Hey,

    Thanks for your comments. We want to clarify that we love India and do not mean to offend anyone.

    We are just reporting what we saw happen and how it was interpreted by our driver (who, by no means, is a traffic authority). We actually have the roadside mob on video, but had to turn the camera off when one man started banging angrily on the window of our car. We tried to post the clip but could not get it to load because our internet access is very slow at this time.

    We do not mean to convey that this is the norm in India, but this is one isolated experience that we witnessed, and Sunil’s explanation may or may not be correct.

    We are going to Southern India next and are excited to see this part of the country. We are also looking for ashrams to check out (Holly wants to get certified in teaching yoga, if possible). Any suggestions?

  • Guru Panguji says:

    Whoa… that does sound cool [:D]!! Anyhoo, my comment was also not a retort, but again just to give u another perspective. :D!!

    South India, now that’s where I am from.. Hmmm, Kerala – my homeland.. Damn I miss it!!

  • blogiast says:

    india directory search

    Here’s some useful info on india directory search
    which you might be looking for. The url is: http://www.jaldisearch.com/

  • http://driving-india.blogspot.com says:

    Driver education not criticism will help.

    This site http://driving-india.blogspot.com/ has been created with the purpose of providing driver education and training to all Indian road users. It is by far the most comprehensive website providing training in defensive driving. Learning simple road habits can make our roads safe and also free up congestion caused by traffic chaos.

    At present 17 driver education videos aimed at changing the driving culture on Indian roads are available. The video are unique in that the footage is real life action from streets of London. We have copied the Western habits: Replaced the dhoti with denim, high rise buildings for Indian cottages, burgers and coke instead of Indian breads and perhaps sugarcane juice. Surely we can copy the Western ways of travelling too.

    To watch the videos, interested readers may visit: http://driving-india.blogspot.com/

    The videos cover the following topics:

    Video 1: Covers the concept of Blind spots
    Video 2: Introduces the principle of Mirrors, Signal and Manoeuvre
    Video 3: At red lights, stop behind the stop line
    Video 4: At red lights there are no free left turns
    Video 5: The Zebra belongs to pedestrians
    Video 6: Tyres and Tarmac (rather than bumper to bumper)
    Video 7: Merging with the Main road
    Video 8: Leaving The Main Road
    Video 9: Never Cut Corners
    Video 10: Show Courtesy on roads
    Video 11: 5 Rules that help deal with Roundabouts
    Video 12: Speed limits, stopping distances, tailgating & 2 seconds rule
    Video 13: Lane discipline and overtaking
    Video 14: Low beam or high beam?
    Video 15: Parallel (reverse parking) made easy
    Video 16: Give the cyclist the respect of a car
    Video 17: Dealing with in-car condensation

  • nilgirihills says:

    Indian almost be best in driving.

  • sudhir says:

    sunil was a stupid who was trying to be smart in front of u girls, who knows that u were unknown to india.
    I Request to remeve post or change title as “our indian road exprience”
    sounds logical umm ????

  • Steve says:

    It seems Lost Girls are out there to say all useless stuff about India. Yes, it’s true that traffic rules specially lane usage is not followed strictly, but it is not that unsafe too. I drive daily to office and often drive in weekends and have never seen any thing like this. People respect each other and do not abuse if you hit some one unless you your self create reckus and drunk. You should have complained to police about your driver.