I have seen my fair share of reckless driving here. In fact, all of thedriving I see is reckless. Cars whip down tiny, pedestrian-choked lanes at forty miles an hour, laying on their horns, scattering people in every direction. The other day, I have found myself backed up against a wall, standing on tip toe to avoid my feet being run over by a jeep that decided to squeeze down a road teeming with people and cows. No joke. The jeep was pressed so close to me, that if I hadn’t been standing on my toes, my feet would have been run over.
And to hell with abiding by the law that says “No Passing on a Blind Curve.” They do it all the time. Driving up to Rishikesh, I was continually amazed (and had my fingers continually crossed) as we straddled the dividing line and tore up the mountain, taking hairpin turns at sixty miles an hour. The driver had no way of seeing who was coming, but he didn’t care. He inhabited the other lane more than he drove in ours, and at breakneck speed. When it comes to driving (and so many other things), the Indians seem to operate under laws that are the polar opposite of our own. When, for example, a car is coming down the road, it speeds up when it sees a pedestrian crossing. Rather than maintaining its speed, or God forbid, slowing down, they step on the gas and come roaring at you. It’s like a menacing reprimand- How dare you cross the road?- and then an automotive display of speed and power. At times like these, you have to dive to the shoulder, hoping that they don’t take the skin off your back as they come roaring past. Usually, you are dodging huge piles of cow dung, and narrowly avoiding falling into deep, murky ditches that line the sides of the road. It’s treacherous.
But yesterday, I saw the prime example of Indian Automotive Superiority. A young man dared to linger in the road too long, talking to his friends as an angry automobile revved its engine and began to back up. I watched its red tail lights burning as it began putting backwards, and I watched the young man directly in its path. His back was turned to the car, so he didn’t see it approaching, but the driver of the car had his arm wrapped around the passenger seat for better viewing access, and could clearly see the young man in his way. He accelerated. The young man was knocked off his feet, and tripping, falling, and then stumbling back up, he tried to jog forward and out of the way of the car. But it kept coming, revving its engine and accelerating again. The young man was knocked to his knees a second time, and rolled out of the way just in time to avoid being run under the tires. All around, his friends were laughing.
I had seen it coming, but I still couldn’t believe it. The driver revved the engine one last time and slid backwards into the empty parking spot he had been hoping for. He jumped out of the car and wiped his hands off, like he had just completed a satisfying task- Job well done!! He didn’t even look at the kid once. That poor young man was busy dusting himself off and laughing with his friends. Apparently getting hit by a car here is an amusing thing.