Life and death in Delhi

There are apparently in the region of 36,000 weddings being celebrated in Delhi alone this December since it’s the first auspicious time after a long period of ill-omen.

wedding road

This is one particular road where the trees bordering each side had been decked with lights. Whether because of a single, very high profile, wedding or because it was the venue of many I know not. We heard stories of people running from one wedding to another all day long, of displays of unbelievable extravagance and wealth.

This picture also illustrates one of the aspects of Delhi most firmly seared onto my consciousness – the driving. You would not be mistaken in your impression from the photograph above that the taxi in which I am travelling is headed directly towards the oncoming vehicle and both are in the middle of the road. This is absolutely normal.

My introduction to Delhi driving was of course the taxi trip from the airport during which the vehicle I was in attempted to pass a very large lorry which was obviously and inexorably heading into the same space. (Words like “lane” or “carriageway” or even “side of the road” are pretty meaningless in the overall context so I’m not using them.) The driver only abandoned his move when one side of the car was scraping horribly against the concrete carriage divider and the other was scratching squealingly against the side of the lorry. The damage, examined at the next petrol station, was extensive.

For this to happen once might have been deemed bad luck, but the journey back was equally eventful. This time the driver, whose lack of skill and erratic behaviour had already had me blanching in the back on several occasions, smashed with a glancing blow into some other moving object which may or may not have been a motor cyclist, ripping off the left hand wing mirror, leaving long scratches along both left-hand windows and a grinding sound from the left-hand front wheel.

The extent of the damage, the smashed lights, the crumpled wheel-arch, were not totally visible until we arrived at the airport. The driver did not even slow down, never mind stop, and I in my pusillanimousness neither said nor did anything either other than crouch even lower in the middle of the back seat and hope the journey would be over quickly.

6 Replies to “Life and death in Delhi”

  1. Beautiful photo!

    I well remember Indian drivers from our trip there last year. We used to amuse (and distract) ourselves in autorickshaw or taxi rides by imagining how the Grand Theft Auto videogame franchise could be rewritten for an Indian setting. Bicyclists and camels and enormous TATA trucks bearing directly for one’ windscreen… *g*

  2. Bravo Ms. Rawlins! i read what you got here and my mind immediately flips to the chorus of a song sung by 2 Indian students in New York sometime ago:

    (Audio Link – http://www.andrew.cmu.edu/user/gkumar/WelcomeToIndia.htm / Video Link – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c-NKL-Vgt1E)

    “Welcome to India where the cows eat hay,
    and we drive auto-rickshaws everyday,
    Goat meats, yummy sweets, wild monkeys roaming,
    The roosters don’t crow till five in the morning!”

    Now Maurina over here:
    http://maurina.wordpress.com/2006/12/18/lunch-at-the-indian-habitat-centre/

    has a nice foodie blog posting, much that it brings up a song by the same folks titled: Curry n Rice Girl:

    Cheers!

  3. Hahahahahahaaa. That must be it! Either that or the damage would have been more severe had the times been less auspicious.

    Ange is right of course (by implication). There was so much to celebrate it seems churlish to harp on about driving. But I’m a very poor passenger for various historical reasons.

    And of course I might have wished it upon myself.

  4. You managed to hold on to your sense of humour in a life-threatening situation – congratulations! I think I might have attacked the driver in those circumstances, foolhardy as it surely would have been. Glad you’re back and in one piece.

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