Monday, January 23, 2006

FIRST IMPRESSION OF INDIA: TRAFFIC FLOW

Wouldn't you know it, the first and biggest impression I have of India is about traffic.

Disney World, Cedar Point and King’s Island are known for their thrill rides. But none can compare with one’s first drive through the city of Hyderabad. There are no painted lines on the roads, no signs, and few traffic signals in a city of more than six million people. Heavy traffic seems to weave seamlessly from one side of the road to the other. I have never been so sure my life would end so many times in such short a time as I was on the drive from the airport to the Operation Mobilization campus. I sat in the front seat, put my video camera on auto, and pointed it at the windshield. I’m sure I could make a thrill ride out of this video. Vehicles range for big trucks (I’ve seen no semis) to motor scooters and bicycles. The Indian-made Ambassador seems to be the most prevalent car, though there are lots of three-wheeled auto-rickshaws. I’m still trying to figure out the rules of the road, but, essentially, one drives of the left, passes on the right, honks the horn liberally when one wants to pass a slower vehicle, yields to the left when a faster vehicle honks to pass, moves over as necessary, etc. It just flows. There are no such things as lanes, in reality or concept. No one gets upset at having to stop suddenly for another vehicle or when a truck pulls out in front of you. One just yield when one has to and takes advantage when possible. You don’t look back; you press on. Of all the things that impressed me this first day in India, it was the color and flow of traffic.

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