The Knight Bus…

Indian traffic flows according to its own rules...

Indian traffic flows according to its own rules…

Those who have had the privilege of visiting India will know exactly what I mean…  Driving in India is an art reserved for the Indians as not many Western drivers would have the stomach or know-how of negotiating oncoming vehicles in all form, speed and in unexpected parts of the road – mainly coming straight at you on the side of the road reserved for you… or so your Western instinct and the Highway Code have taught you…

It often reminds me of the Knight Bus in ‘Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban’ and I wonder whether the inspiration for the film came from watching Indian traffic.  Who does not remember Ernie gleefully shouting: ‘Hold on.  It’s going to be a bumpy ride’ whilst the Knight Bus squeezes and slaloms through the London rush hour finding gaps where there are non, and shape-shifts to wedge through double-decker buses, cars and lorries alike.

I can almost keep my eyes open now on my way to school, sitting in the little tuk-tuk, knowing that when the seemingly inevitable is about to happen, somewhere someone will find this hidden space concealed from my eyes and move skilfully to avoid a disaster.  It may involve the lesser vehicle having to concede speed or a spot on the tarmac by putting on the brakes or using the potholed part of the thoroughfare to give priority to the bigger and more powerful road user.  Trucks and buses always victorious, motorbikes and tuk-tuks mostly forfeiting and those on bicycle or foot better beware and vigilant – there’s always the ditch or a shop entrance to take refuge in…

Strangely, not that many accidents happen as every driver here understands the rules that govern Indian driving, and Western driving – obeying the road traffic rules – would cause endless problems and traffic jams.  Western hesitation at roundabouts and courtesy to other drivers would be alien and profoundly confusing.  Drivers here expect other cars to pull out in front of them and roundabouts are a free for all; you do not wait for a space to emerge, but craftily forge your way through the melee of motorbikes, cars, trucks, buses and bicycles and for some bizarre reason it keeps the traffic flowing…  And the non-stop hooting of horns is a mere warning to cars and others in front to alert them of your intended overtaking, rather than an angry reprimand for being cut off.  It’s all in the interpretation.

Although as a pedestrian crossing the road in my little town at rush hour time, I still feel I take my life in my own hands.  But luckily, if you know where to go, there is a kind policeman on hand orchestrating the goings-on and occasionally holding up the traffic giving you the briefest of moments to safely reach the other side.  I must admit I usually wait until a few other people have gathered  as I believe there is safety in numbers – less chance of you being the one who ends up under the car…

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