We had been to India for a glorious vacation. This time we travelled a bit apart from the customary visits to relatives, and making polite noises over coffee. We had been to Delhi, Agra and Jaipur in the first week. During my stay in Delhi, we travelled a lot by car, and it gave me a chance to observe the traffic.
Here are some traffic rules you might find useful in Delhi.
1) When you have trouble deciding whether you want to turn right or left, switch on the emergency blinker. This will warn other vehicles on the road, that you may turn right or left, and the onus to keep safe shifts to the other vehicles on the road. I find this most helpful, since both sides blink when the emergency blinker is on.
2) Stopping at red lights is considered belittling, and your driving capabilities are scoffed at by other drivers. While driving through red lights, it is prudent to sound your horn.
3) There are atmost three signals in a radius of 25 km where you really need to stop at red lights, and any localite could enlighten you about which ones to stop at for a red light. At such signals, please do not make yourself an object of ridicule by stopping before the line. When you do stop, you need to stop almost midway through the signal – that alone gives you the power to surge ahead before the light turns green.
4) Parking is a right – you may park alongside the curb (not cool!), or in the middle of the road, sideways perferably hindering other traffic. It does not matter as long it is not a very busy road. If it is a very busy road, the only risk you run is getting shouted at more vehemently. There was a time when I found a camel drawn carriage parked sideways on the National Highway. Many times, I found lorries parked diagonally across the road, since that was the most convenient method to unload the goods at the back. Traffic found a way of needling along despite this.
5) While it is useful for the car driver to have a clear view of the road, it is more useful for the vehicle to transport as many people as possible from point A to B. I saw various instances where there were 5 adults sitting in the front seat of a car. Unfortunately, I did not have time to count the number of children. I am assuming the gear change is achieved using a complex rhythm that involves nudging the correct individuals for gear shift. Push Bunty for gear 3, pull Bablee for reverse gear etc.
6) Roads are built for the convenience of the users. Rules are an unnecessary hinderance. For example, if there is a divider on the road built with the intention of having the left side for traffic flowing east, and the other side for west flowing traffic, it does not mean that east flowing traffic has to use the left half and the west flowing traffic has to use the right half. Since the right half is more appealing, all traffic can use the right half, leaving the left half free for parking vegetable vendor carts, and chaat carts.
7) Animals on the roads are not restricted to dogs, buffaloes and cows. Camels and elephants are a common enough sight. So much so that my daughter started asking to see tigers on the road! I couldn’t help laughing at her question when we showed her the Delhi zoo as we passed it. Her mind buzzed for a fraction of a second and quipped “Why?”
8) Rear view mirrors are meant to be folded in, lest they get damaged by other vehicles on the road. You can use other mechanisms such as asking folks in your car to look out, or simply turn your head in all directions everytime you want to make a turn.
A pat on the back to my brother and brother-in-law who drove us all around safely in Delhi. It is far more difficult than we imagine!