What up, amigos.
The other day I was avoiding a decrepit bus and stepping between four auto-rickshaws when I thought, “Stepping between four auto-rickshaws and avoiding a decrepit bus isn’t an everyday occurrence in the United States. I think there may be some material here. Hey, that dog understands traffic patterns.”
For those who want the quick version, here’s a video that encapsulates things nicely:
Much like the rest of India, Indian driving is centered around filling a vacuum — if there’s even a sliver of space to fill, it will be filled by someone or something. In this instance, the something is a car, truck, auto-rickshaw, bus, bicycle, motorcycle or pedestrian. Lanes be damned — there’s a two-foot-wide space along the side of that cement truck that will fit a motorcycle with four people on it, so into the space that motorcycle goes. This is true whether the vehicular pack is stopped at an intersection or moving down the highway at 30 miles per hour — the crowding is the constant.
There is also the honking. I thought I was used to constant honking from my time in New York, but as with every night, I can hear the horns outside now, and they’re averaging a beep about every .8 seconds. Fortunately we’re about 100 feet off the main road and I rock the earplugs every night, so the din isn’t such a big deal. (Earplugs also work with snoring MAP team members, FYI. Though for the sake of fairness and disclosure, I too should probably gift my teammates a spare pair.)
The horn is actually a pretty useful implement in this part of the world — roll up into that two-foot space, and the horn is a great way to signal to the truck driver, “Hey, I’m here on my bike with my totally sweet standard-issue mustache, please don’t squash me and deprive me of many future years of mustache-growing.”
I’d wish to myself that there were more order in the road system here, but experiencing it is a great way to accede to the crazy paradox of India — it’s pretty close to chaos, and yet everyone ultimately gets where they need to go. Plus, you learn quickly that it’s time to cross when the auto-rickshaws switch off their engines. The ever-dishonest rickshaw driver is our nemesis, but admittedly he does function as an effective crosswalk signal.