I have been riding my way to office on my scooter for almost ten years now in Mumbai, Delhi, Gorgon, Rohtak, and Chandigarh, but never have I been so frightened of riding my scooter to office.
Every morning when I reach office, I can’t help but thank God for helping me reach my office safely, with all of my 20-something teeth and 206 bones in perfect working conditions. No, I donít use cannon to blast myself to office; I just have to jostle through the traffic on the roads in Hyderabad.
My office is about 12 kilometers from my home and if I leave any time after 9AM, it can take almost one hour to reach, if I take a relatively unknown and shorter route that is. Buses, trucks, cars, bikes, scooters, cycles, and autos; everybody seems to be gunning for the few feet of empty road in front of the vehicle ahead of them.
What makes this virtual free-for all more dangerous is the constant blowing of horns. A vehicleís horn is to be used sparingly because if used unnecessarily, it can disorient even the best of drivers and therefore result in accidents. Hyderabadis love their vehicleís horn the same way Eric Clapton loves his guitar; always ready to use it.
Honk they must and honk they do; even on the busiest of roads, Hyderabadis honk every few seconds even if the vehicle right in front isnít the one holding up the traffic, and the real cause is a good a hundred meters away.
To give you a better idea of the numbers involved, then sample this; according to a survey, in every kilometer of road traveled, over 70% of motorists honk at least 10 times. Just imagine the deafening noise that is created when seven out of the ten motorists around you start honking. Are that Asprin tablets youíre gulping down your throat?
Over time, I have accepted this annoyance as a price to pay for pursuing my career, but one thing that I havenít been able to get used to, and unfortunately may never do, is the habit of unnecessary over-taking and that too from the wrong side of me. Seeing vehicles over-take me from my left still annoys and frightens me as much as it did the first time I drove a vehicle in Hyderabad. I get annoyed because if there are a hundred vehicles moving on the road, over taking isn’t going to help reach our destinations quickly, unless of course you have a plane to ferry you to office. As far as I can remember, equipping road vehicles with a ďflying gearĒ isnít a priority for any of the automobile manufacturers here in India and abroad. So why honk when it isnít going to help you reach quicker?
If you must overtake, why from the left and not the right? Like almost every other traffic rule this one too seems to have gone for a toss in Hyderabad. Here in India, like most of Europe, we drive on the left-side of the road and may overtake only from the right of the vehicle in front of us. Not only is this a traffic violation, more often than not, it will result in an accident. Shivers run down my spine when the vehicle behind me asks for a pass, I am faced with the unusual predicament. I could either to move to the lane on my left and let the vehicle pass from my right. Or I could stay my course and not let the vehicle pass even if there is a lot of free space ahead of me. More of ten than not, I follow the second approach. You ask why? I guarantee that once youíre done reading what follows you to would agree with me.
Letís say if I do follow my instincts and move left to allow the vehicle behind me to overtake me from the right. I would do exactly this in Chandigarh, but not in Hyderabad. Here there is no telling from which side a vehicle might try to overtake. In my experience, I have seen as many as five out of ten motorists overtake from the left, and once in a while, slam into the vehicle it were trying to overtake in the first place. I have lost count of the times Iíve been in a similar situation, if it werenít for God, I probably wouldnít be writing this post.
My second and preferred approach is to stay my course and not allow vehicles to pass me. Eventually I do let them pass but only when there isnít any space to my left which they just might use to overtake me and be left with little choice but to overtake me from the right. Clearly this is a much safer but it too has strings attached to it. Not allowing people to overtake me, leaves me exposed to the excruciating sound produced by pressing the horn 40 times a minute; sound that can the dead turn in their graves. As I said, this is my preferred choice because I might go deaf but Iíll live to tell the tale.