Saturday, October 30, 2010

Self adjusting Traffic - Miracle on Roads

According to studies, people are afraid of public speaking, more than the fear of death. Thanks to Toastmasters. I'm not afraid of public speaking. But, I was afraid to drive on Indian roads. Uneven roads, rash drivers, congested traffic, dysfunctional signals, worn-out sign boards, pedestrians all over the road scared the hell out of me. How am I going to drive a car in India? It sounded like a million dollar question to me.

Also read: Shared van/shuttle services in Chennai - hard to find!?

The few days of traffic lessons that I took early in the morning (at 6.30 am), wasn't helpful at all. It was like getting trained in your house's stair case to climb Mt. Everest.  Roads are almost empty, at 6.30 am. There is only a few vehicles and countable pedestrians on the road. However, during the peak hour, there is hardly any space for even bicycles to move around - let alone a car.

Driving the car from the dealership to home was a nerve-wracking experience. It is still fresh in my memories. There were motorbikes, bicyclists and cars all around my car. There was just 1 inch gap between my car and other vehicles. I wasn't sure if I would be able to take the car home, without a dent. The car stopped at least 5 times in the short ride from the dealership to home. You can imagine the number of honks I would've got. I was sweating inside the car (though the AC was turned-on). Heart was beating fast and I could sense the adrenaline gush. I managed to successfully get the car to the home. (Also read: Brought a new car - Maruti Swift Dzire)

After reaching home, getting the car on the ramp to the parking lot was another comical experience. The car stopped in the middle of the ramp. I had to wait for the road traffic to clear to come back to the road, from the ramp. I had to do this a couple of times before successfully getting the car on the parking lot.

Considering the fact that I drive the vehicle in city interiors 80% of the times, I should've gone  for a car with automatic gears. In the 30 minutes commute to work, I had to change gears at least 50 times. Changing gears isn't difficult, but pressing the clutch was. With bumber-to-bumper traffic on the road, you should be an adroit driver. A vehicle that stops on the road isn't treated  courteously by other drivers. The honks from all the vehicles will drive you nuts. I started going to work very early & returned home early to avoid traffic.

Also read: Talking on mobiles when driving is prohibited in India

It took me exactly 3 days to get comfortable with the Indian roads. When you drive the 1000 Kg iron on the road, the traffic gets self-adjusted. Way gets created for you automatically. You have to see it to believe it. Though we don't "study" traffic rules, there are lots of "unwritten" rules that we learn through experience.

  • On seeing a car, pedestrians move to the curb, 2 wheelers driving on the middle of the road go to the sides. If they don't, then you should :-)
  • Car/Truck drivers need to just focus on the front. The side/rear traffic would automatically get adjusted to your moves.
  • In a street where only an autorickshaw can go, a car can squeeze through. At times, a huge truck can also go through. Parked vehicles along the road side gets moved, road side shops/carts are moved to create way. A friend of mine managed to go from one end of "Ritchie Street" to another end, in his Honda City, on a busy day. It is hard to imagine, how someone can do that.
  • When there is a traffic jam, volunteers pop-up from the street corners. Most of the times, it is the autorickshaw wallahs, who play the traffic regulators role when there is a traffic jam or an accident on the interior streets. In general, the citizens are very co-operative for large vehicles (cars/trucks/buses etc.,). They help you create space/way when you are stuck - especially when you are driving a brand new/hi-fi car, or if you are a lady driver, or if you are dressed-up well.
  • People don't expect a "flooded" sign-board when there is a pool of water on the road side :)
  • Even when someone parks the car in the middle of the road, the traffic finds its way around the parked car. 
  • Emergency vehicles manage to get through congested roads & crowded streets (of course, with some delay)
  • When you see a passive driver in front of you, you should become aggressive & when you see an aggressive driver behind you, you should become passive
  • Everyone on the road stays alert (pedestrian, 2-wheeler, car/truck/bus drivers etc.,)
  • Everyone have to cover/secure their base, by staying alert
  • Meaning of signals:
              Green - Take turns or move forward with some attention
              Yellow - Take turns or move forward very carefully
              Red - Take turns or move forward very very carefully

Vehicles cruising through our roads in India is indeed a magic. I'm still enthralled by the way in which traffic moves everyday. But, I can proudly say that I'm a certified Indian driver now.

Also read:

Heavy Rain made Chennai into Venice 
Driving on Indian roads - Pleasure or Pain?