From Bullock Carts to Automobiles in a Decade

Today when I set out on my regular act of googling for blogs that expressed my feelings about the pathetic quality of life in Hyderabad, I came across Suresh’ blog. Suresh who likes “Riding Bike! Especially in highways!” has taken great pains to express his views about the driving skills – or rather the lack of – of Hyderabadis. I totally agree with him, a large majority of the people here think they own the road and treat anyone who’s traveling in a smaller vehicle, or worse is on foot, is insignificant and dispensable. I have a zillion instances to support my claim but don’t expect me to express even one of them here because even the thought of it makes my blood burn.

Unlike Suresh, I have not been able to cope with the frustration, or control emotions, and rather gleefully have even failed to get along with crazy drivers!

After spending close to two years in Hyderabad, I’ve coined a theory to explain why most Hyderabadis suck while on the road.

The Cause
Hyderabad is full of immigrants from coastal Andhra Pradesh who moved in 10-15 years ago when the IT boom set in. These included rich and poor farmers. The rich immigrants, sold portions of their land to start one or the other business in the city (taxi service, shops etc.) and the poor ones started working with the rich as their drivers, salesman, or started providing concierge services. The presence of a large number of MNCs and their staff has ensured that all of these get an opportunity to earn good money.

With the constant flow of income, people have bought automobiles of all kinds, big and small. This is where the problem of bad driving originates. Most of these immigrants had never driven anything more powerful than a bullock cart or a bicycle, and that is how they continue to drive their vehicles.

The Effect
I’ll make it a bit simpler to understand. If you see a bullock cart coming down the road, you use your good sense and move out of the way, don’t you? These people expect everyone else to do the same when they drive. Their one hand is perpetually on the horn coaxing the people in front of them to move even in a mile-long traffic jam. Even in crowded markets, they drive at high speeds and expect pedestrians to move out of their way, or get hit.

Being the capital, Hyderabad has a strong police presence; With each road flanked by four to five policemen, one accepts a bit more discipline amongst drivers. But no, even the cops are not a deterrent. On their part, the cops just stand there and move their hands here and there, but nobody pays any attention.

The first thing one learns about driving is that they should overtake vehicles in front of them only when it is an absolute necessity and that too only from the left. But here in Hyderabad, every vehicle must overtake every other vehicle, irrespective of whether it has just overtaken you. Oncoming traffic, market roads crowded with pedestrians are nothing but minor inconveniences and fail to prevent overtaking. Don’t get shocked if a bus or car misses hitting you by a few inches, and neither should you expect an apology. They might oblige you with one if they hit you, but seriously I don’t want to test it.

Talking about apologies, the attitude and behavior of most Hyderabadis is also worth discussion. But that shall have to wait till another post.

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