Road Rules: IndiaIndia, Lost Girls RTW Adventure — By Holly C 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.
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