|Hindu Times photo of downtown Bangalore
during rush hour.
On the one hand, it’s mind boggling how bad the traffic is. You inch along along as every conceivable type of vehicle juts in and around, jockeying for position. The potholes are large enough to swallow small animals and the roads in many places give way to gravel. The traffic lighting and sign system is rudimentary at best. Many four- and five-way intersections don’t have as much as a yield sign as a guide for who goes first. And horns are constantly blaring.
On the hand, however, it’s actually a marvel how it works. You realize after a day or so that there is some method to the madness. Horns are not used out of a sense of frustration but instead to provide an audible cue as to what you are trying to do. I can’t say I have figured it out completely; it seems like an undocumented Morse-code like system. A couple of short blasts as you are approaching a vehicle indicates you plan to pass. A couple of long blasts as you are approaching an intersection means you are going through. There are visual cues as well. When approaching a car with a few short blasts, you make eye contact via his rear view mirror, then you point which way you will pass, and he moves to the other side.
|Motorcycles crowd together in one lane
during the morning commute
We keep hearing about the coming autonomous vehicles, when cars will operate at a much closer proximity to one another, thanks to modern technology. India has already figured this out using a bit of human ingenuity and maybe a collective “consciousness” (they are not only awake but laser-focused on the task at hand). Drivers operate within inches of other vehicles and often split two-lanes with three and sometimes even four vehicles. Using the horn, the subtlest of visual cues and what seems like some sort of mind meld, they decide who gets the right of way and who will yield.
Only once did I see a driver shake a fist and yell; otherwise everyone appears stoic, complacent and even cooperative. No surprise, I guess; when you are all in it together, you work together.