Traffic in India, Risky Business
Today, traffic in India holds tight to its long standing reputation, India remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world to drive in, allegedly, and its not a hard thing to believe, once you’ve seen some of it in action.
There are no national speed limits, different regions are expected to set their own limits – and up until 2014 there were no speed limits whatsoever. Crikey!!!
Another thing- if you’re thinking of hiring a car and having a go 😱 bare in mind that the business of flashing your headlights means something entirely different on the Indian road – it doesn’t mean the flashing vehicle is giving you way, nope. It means the flashing vehicle is coming through.
…and did I mention that ‘staying in your lane’ seems to be a very flexible rule.
Formalities aside, Indian traffic is a colourful and hectic array of well intentioned chaos and harmony combined, fascinating, a bit nerve racking at times, but never mundane or monotonous.
There are so many motorcycles on the road, they probably look like ants from way up high!!! Some laden with three or more people, perfectly perched. 🏍
Sometimes the driver wears a helmet, sometimes not.
A Barrage of Beeps
Beeping your horn isn’t only for moments of risk or danger – in India they do it all the time, all the while, all day long for all manner of reasons – which I guess you have to try and figure out, whilst trying to concentrate on your own driving, keeping a 360 degree eagle eye on other drivers and trying to avoid colliding with vehicles, animals and people. No sweat.
Most trucks and lorries have big signs on the back of them saying ‘blow horn’.
It’s beeptastic 📣
Beeping is customary, you’re letting others around you know you’re there, edging slow drivers on, signalling danger or simply venting your understandable road rage.
Sometimes the roads are tight, and the beeping gets even more furious.
A near-miss seems like nothing to be alarmed about – it’s all part and parcel of a typical drive around town, standard stuff.
India would probably have London’s black cab driver quaking in their boots.
At any given time you can find yourself congested amongst a mass of lorries, tractors, jeeps, tuk tuks, camels pulling carts, wandering cows, buses, children trying to sell stuff through your window, cars, motorcycles, tourist buses and flocks of sheep.
Well they do say variety is the spice of life!
Rush Hour, Every Hour!
The buses always looked packed, sometimes with people standing in every inch of aisle space.
Traffic jams were densely packed and painfully slow moving, but as much as India may want to try and reduce this, the congestion does have its uses!!!
These jams have allowed police to capture and arrest gangs, and abductees due to them getting caught up and trapped in horrendous traffic lol, there’s always a silver lining.
Some of the junctions and ‘perceived’ roundabouts, had no road markings, no traffic lights, swarms of traffic and pedestrians going about in all directions.
I don’t think I saw any pedestrian crossings – nope!
Often, our guide would have to get us across the road like the ‘knowing parent’, he’d get the drivers to give us a chance – or just charge through and take a chance, while we followed. 🚷
All sorts of sights
So when was the last time you saw a truck, crammed with women (in the back, trailer bit) all of them dressed in red, with only their eyes uncovered.
This was one of those moments where my camera wasn’t quick enough – and it would have been difficult to get a good shot while moving at high speed.
You won’t need a book to pass the time on your commute, since looking out the window provided an incredibly fascinating sense of escapism. 🧐
The women seem generally a bit more colourful than the men, the saris are always fabulously bright, and quite a sight when perched on the back of a speeding motorbike (with no helmet), sari blowing in the breeze while their male driver weaves them through lorries, buses, cars, the lot.
Bright saris can also be seen against bright green landscapes when they’re hunched over in the fields hacking and chopping away at something, or tending to some sort of crop – in the hot blazing sun.
When women are leaving the fields with their axe on their shoulder, containers filled with water, or bundles of branches or grasses, wrapped in a colourful scarf, balanced expertly on their heads, it looks like a rural fashion show parade.
More colourful saris were dotted across what looked like a rubbish tip of some sort – but I couldn’t really work out what the women were doing there.
We got held up for a while when a flock of sheep swarmed us on a busy main road – the shepherd had them moving as quickly as he could, then we were off again.
I mean.…imagine this being your legitimate excuse for being late for work lol, or maybe a camel was blocking the road, or a group of cows on the corner – like the ones I remember seeing one evening, as though they’d all met up for a night out or social gathering by some traffic lights at a busy junction.
Beards, baths and balancing acts
How about the old man on his motorcycle with the amazingly long white beard, blowing like white silks as he sped past us.
On several occasions I witnessed people taking an outdoor bath or wash, in full view of passing traffic – lathering themselves on a dusty road or curb, taking water from a concrete container. Buckets of water drenched them, rinsing off the soap – I’m guessing the water was cold.
Then there were the unbelievably overloaded mountainous loads that looked like a giant cloud being dragged along the road by a vehicle that remained buried somewhere beneath it. Jaw dropping, as we overtook some of these!
….and let’s not forget the coaches and buses with suitcases and school bags all tied up nicely on the roof of the vehicle to make room for more people inside. What a perfect reminder of the value of resourcefulness and thinking outside the box. 🚌
As we drove, we’d witness snippets of squalor, and piles of rubbish where animals scavenged for food.
Train to Catch
Boarding a train from Agra to Sawai Madhopur (Ranthambore) was a lot less hectic than I thought it would be. 🚊
There were no people clinging to the roof of the train, plenty of leg room, and quite comfy seats.
There were staff walking up and down the aisles during the journey, each one calling out the item he had for sale (which he carried on his head/shoulder – no trollys).
One would shout “Masala Chai”, the next would shout “chocolate”, and others shouted other things – presumably in Hindi, but you could see it was crisps or fizzy drinks etc…
I’d say the train ride felt quite luxurious compared to the general road traffic in India, though I remember blogs I’d read before this trip where trains had not arrived until five+ hours after the scheduled time, leaving travellers and locals sleeping on platform floors in the middle of the night.
When we got off the train we boarded a mini bus with all it’s dark blue satin curtains drawn, and intense bright blue neon lights glowing throughout, like some kind of 80s throwback vibe 😆
A Little Taste of India
I’d wholeheartedly say that travelling on any kind of public or road transport in India, for a considerable length of time will give you a very good dabble into the day to day Indian hustle and bustle.
You’ll witness a lot, snapshots of people congregating, shopping, catching up in the street and more.
Given that my trip covered cities in the North of India, which are heavily congested and tourist heavy – it would be interesting to see how this traffic compares to the more coastal areas in the south……maybe one day!
Anyway – to experience the traffic and congestion is a great way to get a little taste of Indian life.
Embrace it and enjoy! 🤗