Thursday, September 1, 2011

How Crazy Indians Drive!

August 2009, I shifted from the peaceful little town of Trivandrum (capital of the state of Kerala) to the bustling metro that is Bangalore (now Bengaluru) in Karnataka. Unlike the last time I was here (for 3 years, before I shifted back), this time I brought my motorcycle with me. But I was not prepared for the traffic here.

It was all fine, as long as it was only the ride on weekends. But on 01 August 2011, I joined my new job. It is about 28Kms from where I stay. So, I approximately travel about 60Kms per day since the last one month. And after a month of travelling in Bangalore traffic, I guess I cannot be wrong about what I am about to say.

I am not talking about Bangaloreans, but Indians in general. This is based on the fact that Bangalore is one city in India where you will find people from all over India. People who have moved here to study or to work (just like me). Here goes:

A few things you will learn when you drive in India:

1. What is the Horn?

Indians truly believe that the horn is that magical thing which clears traffic. You are stuck in a jam; the whole road is clogged as far as your eyes can see; what do you do? Lean on the horn. Yes, somehow you believe that the longer you honk, the faster the traffic clears up. And as soon as one person starts, everybody follows.

And when is the horn not needed? Indians don’t think it is necessary to honk when they overtake, especially if they are overtaking through the wrong side. And if you are in Bangalore, most of the overtaking happens through the wrong side. You are expected to have eyes on both sides on your head like a goldfish.

2. Trucks are your friends

The climate in Bangalore is cold most times of the year, along with dry wind at all times of the day. So when you are on a motorcycle, on a cold morning, shivering despite the really slow pace at which you are going, a truck comes to your rescue. How?

Trucks in India emit thick black smoke at all times. Somehow, all those pollution rules are not applicable to them. So when you drive along cold, a truck comes by, and blasts a whole lot of thick black smoke to make you feel warmer. And thus it is a blessing in disguise. Side effects include stinking like smoke the whole day, your white shirt having black soot spots, temporary blindness and lung diseases on the long run.

3. Everybody hates everybody

Yup! I am not kidding. Check this out…

Motorcyclists hate Autorickshaws – Rickshaws never use any signals. They stop, turn, squeeze in, and breakdown at will. Plus if you ever hit a rickshaw by mistake, all rickshawallahs in the area will join together and make sure you pay up even if it was not your mistake or if you have suffered more damage.

Cars hate Buses/Trucks – Obvious reasons – Buses and Trucks have nothing to lose. Severe damage will be to the cars. 

Buses/Trucks hate Motorcyclists – Motorcyclists squeeze in anywhere and everywhere just to get to the start of the line. The poor bus/truck driver cannot even see them if they stood right under their noses.

And Autorickshaws hate Everyone – That is right! They don’t care who you are. They just hate you. They just want to get their work done. Period. If you ever get into a rickshaw in India, close your eyes tight and pray out loud. It helps at times.

4. The rain pisses everybody off

This is the strangest thing I have ever seen. As soon as the cool rain descends, the temper peaks. I really do not know how it is connected. I really don’t. But if you are driving in the rain, be prepared for a fight. Somebody is going to piss you off and you are going to piss of somebody. I can guarantee that.

5. Proper signals are not cool

If you are going to turn, people will say wow, if you drift into it, rather than flip on that indicator or show a hand signal. Who has the time to do all that? We just want to get home. That’s all.

6. People who have attitude problems become Traffic Cops

The traffic cops in Bangalore are among the worst in the world. You commit a mistake they will literally beg you to pay some fine off-the-record and thereby making both parties happy.

But the worst thing is that they hit you. Yes! I AM NOT KIDDING! They will actually hit before they ask you why you did a mistake. (I have not got one yet, and I am making sure I won’t). It does not matter who you are. The other day, I saw a cop drag a well-dressed guy out of his Honda Civic by his collar and slap him. This happened at Hebbal interchange. The mistake was the driver’s, but what right does the cop have to slap him in public. The guy shouted for sometime, then slowly crawled back into his car and left as if nothing happened.

7. What is the meaning of “Heavy/Slow-moving vehicles keep Left”!

It purely means that all heavy/slow-moving vehicles WILL KEEP RIGHT. All the roads have signboards in English, Hindi, and the local language that explains this. But every time you ride, you are sure to see atleast one truck that will move real slowly on the right hand side of the road and the driver will keep signaling to you to overtake from the wrong side.

8. We love shouting abuses at each other

This is something that you HAVE to get used to. I see atleast one middle finger daily even if there was no mistake of mine. And the rest just shout and scream in multiple languages if you create even a small mistake. Just grin and bear. If you are going to shout back, it is only going to spoil your entire day.

Now for some common myths about driving in India:

1. Old folks drive carefully, youngsters are rash

There is no bigger lie than this. Some of the worst drivers are those with grey hairs who keep telling themselves that they have been driving since the past 20 years and what they do is right. Youngsters, I have seen, are much more careful on road. There are few youngsters who do drive like they wanna die, but all oldies drive like they are already dead.

2. Women can’t drive

If you still think this is true, you have not been to Bangalore. Women of all ages drive here. And they drive all types of vehicles – from motorcycles to SUVs. And they drive well. It is really unfair to categorize all women just because a few cannot drive. It is same in the case of men too. There are lots of men who cannot drive properly. Why then is it not said that men can’t drive, in general?

3. Nobody helps you on the road

You will be surprised to see the number of people who come forward to help you if your vehicle breaks down or if you meet with an accident. And the first people on the scene are probably the Rickshawallahs I cursed a few minutes back. They are extremely helpful in such situations. They are also the best people to consult in case you are lost.

4. You will be safe as long as you drive safely

Nope! You won’t! You will be safe as long as you drive safe, and you keep a lookout for all other idiots on the road who are not safe. Major issues are avoided if you simply drop the misconception that just because I am good at driving, I will be safe.

5. It is fine to break the traffic rules in India

Oh! That is so not true. People do break the rules and get away with it, but not very often. The worst thing you can ever do in Bangalore is jump a traffic signal. You might pay of a 100 bucks and get away with it. But people will put you through hell for it. Firstly, you will hear all kinds of abuses from oncoming traffic. Then you get pulled aside by the cop. And he will book you with everything including – jumping a signal, negligent driving, rash driving, and at times even attempt to murder. :)

I would like to wrap this up now, just because if I keep speaking about this, I can go on forever. But I would just like to say one more thing:


Some of the common complaints I hear for not wearing helmets are:

“The roads are bad” – that is the reason why you should wear a helmet!

“I lose a lot of hair” – what good is your hair if you do not have your head!

“I can’t hear other vehicles properly” – every person I know, rides with his/her earphones on, music blasting through it. That is ok, and this is not?

“It is really hot inside a helmet” – yes, it is. At the end of the day, you might need a bath, but not a surgery!

“I can’t see properly” – you should have tried the helmet on before you bought it, you dimwit! There are different types of helmets available. Find the one that suits you!

“It looks dumb on me” – You will not believe the range of really cool helmets that are available in the market now. Honestly, more gals look at me when I ride with my helmet on, than without it (probably cos’ my helmet looks way better than me). :P

All said and done, a lot of how safe you are on roads simply depends on you. When driving in India, it is all about keeping a really cool head and to start early. Nothing More. Nothing Less.

Drive Safe. Be Safe.

(Sorry this turned out to be a really long post, but looks like I really had a lot to say in this matter!)



  1. That was a very good post and I read through it completely, honest! Even though i stopped driving several years ago after losing sight in my right eye. There should have been more comments than just mine :)

  2. I am really glad you stopped by... Thank u for taking the time to read and comment... :)

  3. you sure have - lot to say in this matter that is
    but you know i was laughing at so many places - this was a fun post
    trafic cops beat?? hmm didnt notice that
    the thing about oldies - they drive like already dead - haha true
    the horns are the most irritating thing here in Blore & the other being head lights strong enough to illuminate a cricket stadium
    great post.

  4. Oh yeah! I have a fren who has a lathi mark on his back, just cos he was driving at 3am in the morning! Not drunk or breakin any laws! Still it happens! Cops here are cruel to young men! Trust me!

    Now, how did I miss the headlights part! That is one of the worst ever!!! Thanks for adding to the post!

    And thanks a zillion for goin on a commentin spree all over my blog. I owe u! :)



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