Connect the dots

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Honk if you love Krishna

With over 1 billion people, someone is bound to get in your way. But don’t forget to pack your earplugs or iPod and some Advil, buckle your seatbelt, try to take a nap and forget that you are trying to get from A to B. Driving (or even being a passenger in a car) is at the very least nerve-wracking, if not hair-raising. A mixture of cars, truck drivers dozing off and occasionally hitting the curb, pedestrians playing Frogger, tractors, bicycles, motor bikes, auto and cycle rickshaws – all vying for a spot on the road. Near misses and fender benders are status quo. 
But the worst of it all is the constant horn honking. Our driver through Rajasthan couldn’t get his thumb off that little symbol on the steering wheel. You would think that a light toot would do the job, but no! The drivers place force on the horn that is equal to a CPR life-saving chest compression. Worse are the trucks, which make an improvisational trumpet solo each time they blow their horns. And what makes the traffic go faster when you’re bumper to bumper? Sequential and sustained honking, of course!

The deafening sound is only matched by the pollution and traffic that is created by this system. Bus lanes were created on the wide boulevards to encourage people to use mass transit but Delhi-ites feel it hurts their social status being seen on a bus, so they've stuck to their cars and stuck to the ever increasing traffic. Try driving on a Sunday. We headed towards a church festival in Sardhana, 100km from the Delhi suburb of Saket. Just guess how long we spent in the car going there and back? Approximately 10 grueling hours sitting in a car. An average of 10km/hour!

Fortunately people are not too proud to take the shiny and quick Delhi metro. Unlike the NYC subway system, women are able to escape crowds, getting groped and pressed against by slimy men if they choose the women-only first car. Just follow the pink arrows. But even in a mixed car, there are seats reserved for the ladies. 

We have yet to take the long distance trains. For now, we'll sit back and try to meditate through the traffic, the smog and the cacophony of the horns of India.

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