Welcome to India: Honk, Honk, Honk

There is no preparing you for driving in India. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride is a relaxing ride in the country compared to driving in India. I have driven in the UK before, and despite my wife’s claims to the contrary, I was successful. I can handle driving on the left, round-abouts, and odd, tiny lanes that make passing impossible.

But India is a whole other motoring animal.

My first experience was the ride from the New Delhi Airport to the Railway station. I was warned in advance to buy the pre-paid fare from the Police stand inside the airport (wise, wise advice, many stopped trying to scam me when they saw my yellow ticket). The car had tassels around the interior and a small statue of Ganesha on the dashboard (Taxi cab drivers are universally religious people, apparently). There was no seatbelt, and the instant I was in the door we were off. Most Americans are taught the two car rule for maintaining a safe distance behind the car in front of you. Indians have the two centimeter rule. And not just in front. There are no lanes on the street, so everyone just packs into whatever space is available on the road, and honks. And honks. And honks.

Another cab driver told me that an Indian car did not have to have brakes, did not have to have windows, did not have to have an engine, but that a car without a horn was simply unthinkable. And two minutes on the streets in India, and you will know why. Horns are used for everything here. You honk once to warn a person or other car that you are behind them. Twice to yell at them for cutting you off. Three times to just say hi. And a melodic “beep, beep, be be beep” when you are just bored in traffic. I heard a story of a couple from Germany who counted how many times their driver honked in an eight hour trip. 3,742. Damn.

Now, this is not to say that Indians are crazy, not at all. Their driving is a symptom of the roads; too small, too crowded, too full of people and animals and vendors. And while part of me found myself holding my breath for what seemed like hours as we hurtled towards a car driving directly at us, another part of me loved it, and wants to try driving here as soon as possible. As soon as possible in this case being as soon as my wife lets me. Which will be a very long time.

Again, this picture is not mine. But mine are coming soon.

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About the Author

I moved to India. I mean, why the hell not, right?