With the golden quadrilateral and other not so golden national highways getting converted into multi-lane speedways, I’m convinced that things are improving in our country - I mean for the contractor mafia and motor accident solicitors. My expeditions on some of these Camino Reals taught me a lot of things including the fact that if you ever manage to drive back home safely, you indeed have done something good in your previous incarnation, even if you were a religious/political leader or a bloodsucking leech or both in that. This post is for anybody who is planning to take up a trip on our new multi-lane multi-tolled highways; few things if kept in mind could save them many lives, including their own if they are that lucky.
The first thing to learn – whether you like it or not - is that your primary job while driving on our highways is NOT to drive and reach your destination, but to serve and protect the numerous cyclists, bikers, bullock carts, tractors human jaywalkers and animal jaystrollers. Being children of the soil/tar, they can appear anywhere, move from anywhere to anywhere in any which direction they want and you are in charge of safeguarding them from both yourself as well as other motorists around you. From my experience, the most effective approach to deal with them is to pray to the god in charge of traffic affairs in your religion that you will spot them in advance. If your religion doesn’t have a god for transportation or if you don’t use prayer as a means to get things done your way, be doomed. Also remember that you are at fault for any casualty that happen, no matter whether it’s your mistake or not and will be burned alive along with your car by the omnipresent mob.
Now to your secondary job – which again is NOT to drive to your destination as you thought wrongly - is to protect you and your companions from trucks and buses that will drive only on the fastest line on your side and ALWAYS in your opposite direction with equal or more velocity. (Newton never traveled on Indian highways, else he sure would have postulated one more law of motion for school kids to by-heart). Though no scientific study has been done on this primate behavior of truckers, it’s believed that they either genetically inherited this trait from some of their ape ancestors or they are suffering from something called ‘Acute Intelligence Deficiency Syndrome’ or AIDS. Some of them will have their headlights on, again a behavior inherited from the said ancestors to establish and maintain their alpha male position over you. When on an Indian multi-lane highway, always be on the lookout for them and when encountered, move away as early as possible so that your insurance company will save some money.
Accepting that driving to your destination is one of your goals, that’s NOT your third priority as a driver on our highways – it is to protect(and if possible serve as well) novice highway drivers, also known as ‘headless chicken’(HCs here after) in automotive terminology. These could be virtually anybody who owns an Indian driving license, which typically gets issued based on one’s bribe-ability factor, and not the driving skills. So you must keep in mind that HCs neither know driving, nor are they aware of things like lanes, rear-view mirrors, indicators etc, because in our driving curriculum, driving(money into the inspector’s pocket) is more important, how you do that is immaterial. You can spot them very easily, unless you are - a) one of them b) blind c)brain-dead d) all of the above. Dealing with them is comparatively easy – follow your gut feeling, trust me it works at times.
Next comes the actual driving part. Let’s see some of the roadblocks that you will come across and how to tackle them. First is about how to deal with the parallel slow moving trucks on all the lanes on your side of the highway – this is called ‘para-snailing’ in automotive terminology, the best approach is to follow them, in few hours one of them sure will move away to answer natures call, and that means your time has come, move on. Till then sit back, relax and enjoy thinking about green house gases, carbon footprint and stuff like that, after all we are green people. You can also read the commandments written behind the trucks on diverse subjects like family planning, rain water harvesting and even patriotic edicts such as “Mera Bharat Mahan…Highly inflammable”(Old joke in new blog).
Next is about dealing with speed breakers which are known as ‘humps’ in my part of the world. Some people - especially those who are more ‘westernized’ - misunderstand this word because its also a colloquial term for an essential adaptation given by mother nature - for camels to survive in deserts as you guessed rightly. If you encounter a warning on the highway that states ‘hump ahead’, read the first word as a noun and not a verb, you could end up in a lot of trouble if you do so, we are still a conservative society. Now humps are of many types, some are officially installed and warning assisted which are easy for you to deal with. There are another set of humps that locals create with primitive raw materials and like mud(which is abundant within their skulls) and stones and are assisted with no official warnings. They are intended to kill you; there is no escape, unless you are driving a Patton Tank.
There may be other protocols and know-hows that you as a more learned, experienced individual might know, please do throw light on them by commenting here so that I can publish this as a book titled “The Essential Indian Highway Etiquettes Guide”. I shall acknowledge your contribution with the smallest possible font in the book’s last page(or in the page after that), which will be your royalty.