Attention Adrenaline Junkies! Be it the Skywalk in China or Edge walk in Canada, a stratosphere sky jump or storm chasing in the US of A – you may have been there and done that. I know you are driven by the fear factor associated with such activities. But the time has come for you to update your bucket list.
While you may have tandem stuff happening in the other adventures, or knowledgeable guides helping you prepare for what to expect, there is very little to prepare you for the activity I am going to talk about. In fact, I’ll attempt to provide that oh-so-necessary preparation needed for such an adventure.
For a true thrill-a-minute experience, nothing comes anywhere close to the experience of a self-drive in India. Believe it or not, short of facing a grizzly or a bullet, it can be scarier than anything you may have ever experienced! And, it is independent of whether you are driving in a city or on a highway!
Since very little literature is available to prepare people for this extreme sport, in 15 short tips I hope to arm you with enough understanding of the unforeseen that may prove vital when you embark on this adventure in reality.
6 nuggets for Highway Driving – each worth its weight in gold
- When you drive on the highway in India, what does the blinking indicator of the truck/bus ahead of you mean? It could mean one of the 2 things – the vehicle is turning, or you could overtake from that side (chances of the latter case being higher). In such a situation, you are advised to exercise due caution, take a calculated risk and overtake.
- Vehicles coming from the opposite direction on your side of the road? The exits are not conveniently enough placed for them. Just watch out for them!
- Though termed ‘Highway’, you’ll find all sorts of vehicles on these roads – right from bicycles to bullock carts to trucks with multiple axles. Yeah, that’s the truth in India. You may attribute it to strain on infrastructure and just take care to not bump into any of these.
- If you sense that a Dhaba (roadside eatery) is a short distance away, beware! Drivers in front may suddenly decide to stop for a quick ‘chai’ (Tea) or a snack. Similarly, vehicles may materialise out of nowhere as their drivers decide to swing back on to the highway just after their ‘chai’. Exercise due caution, therefore.
- If you don’t honk, the vehicle you are overtaking may never know of your presence and may decide to change the lane at a last-minute whim. So, no matter how much you hate the idea, do honk, even if ever-so-lightly!
- Be totally prepared for unscientifically made speed breakers, even on a highway. These are fully geared to shatter the axle of the vehicle or to launch it into stratosphere.
9 mantras for City Driving – each may potentially save a life – yours!
- You see some moving vehicles with their hazard light on? It may be foggy (or raining) and the driver believes it helps his vehicle to get noticed, and hence may help avoid accidents.
- Fast lane is the slowest and the slow lane is the fastest. While that may be your observation and it might be largely true, remember Mr Murphy’s famous law of driving? The lane you are in is the slowest. Those who drive in India believe in this law. No wonder, they change lanes when they feel like, with little regard to traffic behind them. And, this casual lane changing is normally done without putting on the indicator!
- Pedestrians are on the road as there is no pavement/pavement has been encroached by hawkers/shopkeepers/residents. Don’t blame them, as they also have to walk. Just be a little tolerant of them.
- The right of way is with the vehicle whose nose is ahead of yours. Be prepared for it to swing in front of your vehicle, and like the earlier cited instance, without any indication.
- At the roundabout, the right of way is with the vehicle that daringly lunges forth. Though we drive on the left of the road, and technically, the right of way is with the vehicle coming from the right, but what I have stated is the reality. Use your sixth sense often. Nay, always!
- At traffic light, when green light turns to yellow is the time to see land speed records being broken on Indian city roads. Statistics have it that this is the point where maximum accidents happen in India. Hence, even if the light has turned green for you, inch ahead gingerly.
- Even heavy vehicle drivers (city buses?!) fancy themselves as bike riders, and accordingly weave in and out of traffic with little or no regard to the size of their vehicle and the inconvenience they may be causing to others on the roads. Give them a wide berth.
- Most driver have an uncanny knack of being in the wrong lane – the vehicle on the extreme left lane would suddenly remember he has to turn right, and vice versa. Watch out!
- Another common occurrence – drunk drivers and those talking on mobile phones while driving will not remember to check if your vehicle is next to theirs and may swerve into you if that’s the only way their vehicle can inch ahead. Forgive them, for they know not what they are doing!
While the above tips are likely to prepare you somewhat for a self-drive in India, do remember to factor in the unstated and the unseen – like a cow walking into your path or a bull stubbornly holding his ground in the middle of the road – and carefully drive on. After all, approx. 142 million vehicles (registered as on Dec 2011 – click here to see details) do the same here!
PS: In case anything has escaped my notice, but is materially important for other readers, kindly leave a note in the comments section and I’ll incorporate it giving due credit. Thanks!