Indian traffic lessons

Finally, I am driving myself in India, and I suspect the extreme experience from Indian traffic can help to further understand the business culture too. This blogpost is about traffic, so leaving to you to draw any comparisons to the business culture. 

Unbelievable but true

It is a fact that on any normal day going to the office, I experience 3-4 episodes that would not happen in a lifetime of driving in Norway. This is confirmed by the most sceptic of my passengers.

Including but not limited to: vehicles coming towards driving direction, someone overtaking on the inside, someone entering from a side-road as if I am invisible. Pedestrians, stray dogs and flocks of cows suddenly in the middle of the road – everyone leaving the full responsibility for their lives to me.  

When multiple of this factors kicks in at once and I am already busy putting on the windshield wiper instead of the turn-signal crossing the road to make a right turn – then things get very complicated. 

The so simple Indian traffic rule no. 1:

It is all about getting your nose first into the situation. Get the front wheel in first. Don’t worry about the rest of the vehicle, or if you are entering into a larger road or anything else. Get your nose in and block the situation. It is all about physical rules! Others will be forced to stop. You are in the game. One of hundred small milestones for the next hour is reached. Note the exception for the big guys (if you are a small guy).

The first solo-trips were horrible. 

It felt much worse than the first driving-school lessons 30+ years ago. Holding the wheel with the right hand and operating the shift with the left. Sitting on the right side of the car, not to mention trying to keep at the left side of the roads. Full re-learning. I just knew it would be difficult. However, those technicalities very fast became the simpler part, and actually the only factors in my own control. 

Indian traffic Lesson: buses, trucks and trains are NOT scared of small Renault´s

Question to my friend Angela: 

-Should I stop for vehicles coming from left, or right? 
The answer was clear: no-one practices any rules. Just go! 

This is later confirmed by our very experienced driver friend Nerry. Ever since I have not even bothered to think about any such rules.

Forget about the big picture (and leave your long term thinking at home) 

In Indian traffic the battle is all about the next 8 meters and the progress YOU can make the next 5 seconds.  

The road comes and goes

Even the best of multiple-lane roads offers surprises enough to keep you awake. All of a sudden one lane can end – in absolutely nothing, or in facing traffic or if construction work is going on – in anything very hard. Especially when driving in the dark and all facing traffic has the headlight on max, the surprises seems to appear frequently.

Getting defensive is dangerous. Being polite can be deadly.  

Being defensive, giving way to others, letting the others do their thing first – does NOT work. Being the only careful one, is a bad strategy. It will be understood as lack of a clear plan. You will be left out and run-over in minutes.

When I see a lady with her child standing at a pedestrian crossing, my instinct is still to stop and let her cross the street. But I am not! Doing so, would most certainly screw up the ecosystem and in best case create some kind of dangerous situation. So, just go!

Politeness does not play a role in Indian traffic. One single person trying to practice that, will again create a steady flow of too dangerous situations.

New to left hand Indian traffic, but in a clean hand washed car ;-)
I have watched people practice it for 18 years, and this week I finally went from right-hand to left-hand myself. Conclusion: being the actual driver in India, involves major re-learning. After finding this brilliant car-wash in Panjim, at least I am doing it in a very clean hand-washed car  #lefthanddrivestillsuck

Expect an amazing flora of vehicles 

The more recognizable ones are spiced up with all kind of custom-built mechanisms on wheels, so you will often find yourself in the situation of not even knowing what almost hit you.

The art of honking

The horn is among the most important features of the vehicle. Mastering the trumpet triple your chances of getting through the city in one piece. You simply cannot learn it by listening to others honk. You just have to honk yourself to understand the beauty of it.

You just must try driving in India. 

It’s an extreme difference in driving yourself and just being the passenger. (Though that is nerve wrecking enough) You will never understand India before you are behind the wheels yourself. Do it and you will get in on some lessons not known to everybody. You will get so used to the unexpected, that I am sure it will change how you think and act, far outside traffic.

I am in in the flow now!

I am moving through the city on priority. I approach any junctions with the “No way I will slow down mindset” showing all over the car. I don’t leave an inch open for others. Yes, the traffic is stuck around me, but at-least I am slightly faster than the others. I think.

The impossible sum-up:

  • Even the basics are different.
  • Much more factors to consider.
  • Much higher volume of everything.
  • If it is physically possible, it will happen.  
  • Don’t ever get defensive or polite.
  • Forget about what happens in 30 seconds, since make-or -break is right now. 
  • Feel the power of being behind the wheels. It will show on the outside of the car. 
  • Don’t leave any doubt or room for others. 
  • Always expect the unexpected. 
  • Everything is about physical rules, so just get your nose first into the situation.
  • Beware of the biggest guys (I can confirm that buses, trucks and trains are NOT scared of small Renault´s)