The automobile industry in India has gone through a very rapid growth over the past twenty years or so. However, as we all know, the road infrastructure hasn’t quite complemented that kind of growth yet and so is our great driving culture. Our vehicles, driving sense, size of the population and the available infrastructure is a super combo that often offer us some lighter moments on our roads. Also, you can see so many ‘innovations’ and ‘improvisations’ that is specific to some of our vehicles and vehicle models that are found only in India. This post is about some of those funny and peculiar scenes on Indian roads.
On and inside vehicles
We Indians are very particular about protecting our belongings from dust an pollution. Inside many homes, you can see the TVs and washers protected with plastic covers and even the couches and dining tables topped with a layer of sari or plastic sheet to prevent it from getting dirty. The case is much the same with many people when it comes to taking care of their cars. Some of them never ever remove the plastic covers on their car seats that’s used during shipping & transportation of the new vehicle. Some even keep it for 3-4 years or until the next resale of their cars. Well, you have to get the priorities very clear here. Keeping the car seat dust free (read resale value) is far more important than getting own backside hot by the plastic cover or even transferring the dust and dirt from plastic cover to your bum.
Talking about the vehicle interiors, the dashboard area of most Indian cars is a mini temple. In the best case, you may only see an idol there but sometimes it’s an array of idols immersed in fresh flower garlands that’s changed every day, various other decorations like colorful electric lamps and even lit incense sticks. Again, the priority is not fire safety but bribing the god to get a good day on the road. This is particularly the case with taxi drivers many of whom forget the god, goodwill and well being of other people on road the moment they are off to their working day. Any road is a highway for them.
Now, if the taxi happens to be an old Amby (Hindustan Ambassador), the dashboard there in is like a wall with the left side of the wall shelf (supposedly glove box) mostly open without any shutters. You can see dirty towels, a piece of mirror, incense sticks, comb etc there – basically all that it takes for the driver to survive for a day. The towels have varying uses – from wiping their sweat to clean the cars and cleaning the windshield from outside by occasionally extending their hands out. This is mandatory on rainy days as the worn out 5″ wiper blades don’t do their job. And even if they do, they invariably do this periodic activity.
Well, if the white Ambassador is owned by an Indian politician or bureaucrat who’s a chauffeur, then you can see a lot of white Turkish towels that’s used to cover the seats. Again, the car seat cover doesn’t seem to be good enough to do its job.
I almost forgot about those hanging dolls from the inside rear view mirror – This is something that you can get to see in India alone or in cars owned by Indians abroad. However, very often I found this part interesting because mostly you can even predict the owner’s nativity and culture just by looking at it.
Now, the exteriors of most vehicles are as intriguing as the interiors. One of the common scenes is those cars with both ORVMs (outside rear view mirrors) completely folded in as if they are the most ridiculous and totally unusable inventions ever. Here, you must appreciate two things – one, the driver’s ability to drive the car without having to look at sides and behind. Secondly, if you toss up between safety and potential scratch on those mirrors, safety takes the backseat.
The vehicle owners writing their kids names on either side (left and right) of the rear window is another common scene. Well, don’t get me wrong here. I am not claiming that this is something funny but just an observation.
Autorickshaws are amazing vehicles that completely exploit the improvisation possibilities, especially on their rears. Many autos claim that they are powered by monster engines by displaying emblems of Audi or Mercedes on the back. Also, writings like 2000CC etc are very common. The rear side of those inter-state trucks also exhibit some amazing pictures or genius’ words on top of the usual ‘Sound-OK-Horn‘ or ‘Horn-OK-Please’ writings.
Some of the other things that you can see on Indian vehicles include bumpers protected by steel bars (to protect the bumber from scratching?), wheel plates or disks tied with plastic twines to prevent theft, multi-colored stop lamps (who said it has to be red) etc. I am sure, you may have a lot more to add here.
Common scenes on Indian roads
Now on to the road and driving style itself. I could write a huge post about it but for the sake of brevity I am just jotting down a few bullet points.
- Two underpowered auto rickshaws trying to overtake each other and occupying both the lanes on the road with a long trail of of vehicles behind them is a common scene in some Bangalore roads
- A TVS 50 moped carrying three times its weight i.e. two or three sacks of vegetables or grocery items and moving extremely slowly is another funny scene. Sometimes, the rider is in a diving position with his body resting on the sack in front, and his legs folded backwards. When he pauses in the traffic, he has to pedal hard to take it off further. The type of payload on the TVS 50 varies from state to state. In places like Tamilnadu, it’s those milk jars whereas in states like Kerala it’s fish
- Overtaking pattern: One thing I have noticed here is that, as soon as a vehicle overtakes you, even if there’s enough width available, the driver immediately blocks you. So it’s like you are being overtaken from either side and them merging in front of you creating some kind of cut onion pattern This along with the zig-zag movement of autorickshaws, bikes and call centre taxis essentially create the traffic clog
- In the case of a traffic jam, the two wheelers immediately use all available space including the footpath and even small parapets of drains. If it is a one way, the immediate reaction is to squeeze through the wrong side and merge into the next available slot on the actual intended lane. Sometimes this has the blessings of the traffic policemen as well
- In case you get a flat tire, you may visit the nearest ‘pancher shop‘ which is essentially an encroachment on the road or footpath
- Although the helmet rules are in place, sometimes it is okay to have a loose-fitting bowl like stuff on your head. The priority obviously is not safety but not to pay a fine. Some smarties, who do not want to get their hairstyles disturbed, hang the helmet on their wrists while riding to put it on only when a serious looking traffic cop is in the vicinity
- Towing away two wheelers: Okay, so you have several of those two-wheelers or motorbikes parked on road sides where it’s not allowed to park vehicles. At times you witness a mini truck coming in with four-five people in the carrier space along with several bikes. They keep lifting bikes one by one from the road and dumping into the truck. Some of those hapless riders who would have just about parked the vehicles will plead to them but in vain. They have to finally pay the ‘fine’ to the cop who is sitting inside the driver’s cabin wearing a ‘Rayban’ eye-drop shaped sun glass in order to get the seized vehicle back
Well, there are so many other things that I wanted to talk about but it’s already a long post. I am sure you will have a lot more to share on this topic as well. Please leave your comments about those funny scenes that you have got to see yourself on Indian roads.
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