Driving on the roads of Bangalore

When I returned to India after ten years in the United States, the idea of driving on the roads of Bangalore gave me nightmares. Silly, I know, considering I was born and raised in India. No wonder then, that it took me two years to get behind the wheel again, in spite of having eight years of driving experience. It has been six months since I started driving, and I must say that the chaos of Bangalore’s roads is growing on me. I might even go so far as to say that I am beginning to enjoy my twenty five kilometer commute to work. The truth is, there is never a dull moment.

Sharing and caring: Driving in India means sharing the roads with a lot of odd characters – rabid mongrels, two-wheelers that drive like rabid mongrels, nonchalant cows, distracted pedestrians, frustrated auto-drivers, buses that stop wherever they please, trucks of all sizes driving at all kinds of speeds, vehicles driving on the wrong side of the road, cars parked in the middle of busy traffic, peddlers at traffic lights, wedding processions, and the occasional donkeys and camels.

The truth about autos: Imagine you are a software programmer and your aging computer crashes on you twice a day. Or, you are a cook, and your kitchen is frustrating small and stuffy. Such is the life of auto drivers. The other day, I had to cross the road. About a meter away was an auto with two passengers, driving uphill on this rather steep road. I had two options – wait for it to cross, or just go ahead. I decided to go ahead. There was even enough time for me to cross the road again if I wished to, before the auto would get past me. He had such poor pick-up, that for a moment I thought he was moving backwards. Now imagine you were an auto-driver. You spent most of your day on the roads, driving. And, even a bicyclist could pass you with just a little bit of effort. What would it do to you? The attitude you get from them, therefore, is totally justified. My suggestion – get rid of autos. They are breeding a generation of eternally frustrated men.

If you ever get into a scrape with an auto-driver your safest bet is to drive the hell out of there. If that does not work, yell at him at the top of your lungs before his mafia gathers around. Give him all the cash you have in your wallet and then drive the hell out of there. Remember, whatever your course of action, you have only one advantage – the superior pick-up of your vehicle against his.

Pedestrians: Insects have mosaic vision. It means that they can detect motion better than they can discern outlines of objects. Ditto with the pedestrians of Bangalore. The only way to get their attention is to drive like a maniac, at the risk of mowing them down. Or, you wait patiently and give them way, while some other motor vehicle decides to mow them down in the meantime. Tough choices like these are a daily reality on Indian roads. The pedestrians, meanwhile, are an enlightened lot. They live in the moment, unafraid of death.

Bus drivers: Once I saw a bus driver navigate a really difficult turn, while autos, two-wheelers and everything else on the road was dangerously closing in on him from all directions. In my frustration, I imagined an interminable traffic jam, wondering if I was going to make it to work that day. Amazingly, there was no jam. In what seemed like a violation of the laws of physics, he cleared the intersection in record time. What extraordinary skill. My driving instructor told me that according to Indian law, a bus driver, if responsible for a fatality, can resume driving after a month. However, if the accident results merely in injuries, it is a nuisance for the driver as he cannot drive again until the case against him is cleared in court. True or not, the message is clear – stay out of their way!

The divider straddlers: There is this breed of car drivers that stubbornly drive on the dividers between the lanes. Do they think that it is there for them to drive on? Or perhaps, they are just indecisive. “Should I go on the rightmost lane or the middle one? Maybe I will drive on both”. They are also completely oblivious to the traffic on the road. So there you are, desperately honking, hoping to get past, but no!

To honk or not to honk: Two-wheeler drivers use their horn as a proxy for the brake, especially when they have to go around corners in residential areas. Their driving philosophy runs like this: why slow down and unnecessarily wear down our brake-pads when a nice honk will do the job? It also extends to these other miscellaneous points – never bother to look before changing lanes; if you are a car driver, then hanging around in your blind-spot for several minutes at a time is our birthright; your left turn and right turn signals are of no concern to us, we just ignore them. And finally, before you pointless argue with us – Yes! We are completely suicidal.

Good offense is your best defense: When I started driving, I was a nervous wreck. The toughest part was anticipating the actions of erratic two-wheeler drivers. I cursed and I plodded along. Slowly, I learnt a few tricks. And these days, the morning commute is an adrenaline rush. I arrive at work awake and alert, ready to take on the day. So what is my secret to enjoying driving in Bangalore? If you are brainwashed with western ideas of defensive driving, here is what I have to say – ha, ha, good one. Enjoy watching people drive past you. Drive aggressively instead, and watch driving lanes magically open up for you. So, here is the mantra – drive aggressive and drive safe. Until, of course, the traffic policeman decides to slap fines on you.



Filed under Chinni

6 responses to “Driving on the roads of Bangalore

  1. Mothi

    Funny and technical (learnt abt what mosaic vision really means !). Thank you Chinni. Keep them coming.


  2. Loved the part about pedestrians! 🙂 “The pedestrians, meanwhile, are an enlightened lot. They live in the moment, unafraid of death.” Hahahaha. If you can, pictures and videos will complete this post or others in the future further.


  3. thatodiaboy

    I like the way you write about things in our everyday lives laced with wry humour. This was really an interesting read!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s