Driving Lessons

To prepare yourself for road travel in Pune city …

1) Visualize your favorite 4-lane thoroughfare cutting through any city.
2) Remove the grassy median and replace it with concrete dividers.
3) Remove guard rails, shoulders, and sidewalks.
4) Scoot buildings up to within 10 feet of heavy traffic.
5) Place your house there.
6) Take a pick axe to the asphalt. Wash 1/4 of it away with a heavy rain.
7) Remove about 60% of the street signs. Of the remaining 40%, erase the writing and replace it with inscrutable scribbles. The rest of the street signs may or may not have names that match the names on your map. Place these in unpredictable locations in an intersection.
8) Remove cars from each outside lane and fill the lane, 4 or 5 deep, with bicycles, motor scooters, motor cycles, and autorickshaws (canopy-covered 3 wheelers).
9) Double the number of riders on half of each of these. Remove helmets for most.
10) Remove lane markers.
11) Triple the population in the immediate area and add pedestrians along the edge.
12) Sprinkle traffic with herds of donkeys and bulls.
13) Throw in a few wild dogs, aimless cows, and elephants with riders.
14) Decorate the borders of the road with an occasional pig, wild dog, and chicken feasting on an open trash heap.
15) Add the aroma of garbage and farm animals on a muggy, hot day.
16) Remove concrete dividers in the middle and everyone make immediate and efficient use of any opening in traffic without regard to lanes (and, if you’re a car, with regard to right of way). If necessary, borrow sections of road from oncoming traffic. Vehicles announce their presence by repeatedly tooting their horn on approach.
17) Now, everyone drive on the opposite side.
18) Prepared to exit your driveway at 35 mph? Then lay on your horn and go!


6 thoughts on “Driving Lessons

  1. Auto rickshaw is the way to go. It’s more fun that way, and while you may be flustered at some..ahem..unconventional driving techniques, not a soul there will bat an eye. Have you been blocked by a standing cow in the thoroughfare yet? That is a total hoot! Of course from the place you’re staying you’ll probably have to be placed in a taxi. They might be a bit overprotective in the west of India, but it’s done with love. 🙂

    • For this leg of the trip, my company has given me my very own driver in an air-conditioned economy car. The autorickshaws don’t go as fast as cars and I have a half hour commute to work by car. So, I’m living in luxury until July 31.

      I’m starting to get used to all the care and attention.

      Cows, cows everwhere. Although none have stopped traffic yet. They tend to hang out on the “shoulders” and “median” on the road. And you are right: no one bats an eye.

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