Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Road Adventures in India

January 25, 2008

As I look forward to my next India trip, I couldn't help remember my last one of early 2006 and the roadside adventures that I got to experience back then. And on top of that, after I read Aspi's The great Indian license trick, I just had to write this up!

Plane close up
Originally uploaded by kananj

It started from the airport. Fortunately, the custom folks didn't even look at me or my baggage more than a glimpse so I was very pleasantly surprised and still thank God for none of those hassles that I have heard horrid stories about.

Now since we had to switch the airports at Mumbai from international to domestic, we had to take the shuttle bus. So this driver or the shuttle bus helper guy shows up, and even before I say anything and without asking me, he starts picking up my baggage from carts and starts loading it on the bus baggage storage area, so I just thought he was being nice (yeah right!). After he loads up all the baggage, he gives me a begging face look and asks me for some money. I said I don't have anything and that since I didn't ask him for any help in the first place, I didn't owe him anything. He kept going on about it... and to be honest, I didn't keep anything but a twenty dollar bill with me, which I didn't want to give for some guy who volunteers to act like a coolie. So I told him looking into his eyes that I did not have anything for him and that he stop asking for the money. Finally, I ended up giving him some chocolates and candies that I had in my purse, as that was the only thing I could give but that experience taught me one thing - as soon as these guys see it is female passengers from the US, they try to act smart and make money off of us. I don't like people who cheat like that to make money off of innocent travelers. Beware of these *nice* guys.

Traffic at Tran darwaja
Originally uploaded by kananj

Another one was driving around with my uncle in Ahmedabad. So his car is an early 90s make; some of them don't have the seat belts and the drivers are supposed to carry around this proof of what year the model is in car so they can prove that their car is excused from having no belts. That evening we were getting late to reach for a dinner and this cop pulls us over. My uncle doesn't have the little piece of paper that this police officer needs, so he starts talking about a Rs. 100 ticket for him, but my uncle who is a professor in a reputed school in the city, starts apologizing and telling him where he teaches and what, etc. And then the officer sees rest of us in the car and thinks over and finally lets uncle go with a warning. I was pleasantly surprised we didn't even bribe him and he let us go. Key to not get a ticket, have a whole bunch of innocent looking passengers in car, tell them how big your workplace is and finally... apologize. Tada! no ticket for you.

Yet another incident happened in Ahmedabad, it was a friend of mine who was driving me around and we almost ran a red light at a big intersection at rush hour. And how can a cop miss that who's standing like right in our faces? He came right up to us and pulled us over. My friend admitted she hadn't seen the red light and apologized and promised it won't happen again. He warned and let us go without the ticket. :) yoo hoo! more money for shopping. ;)

Btw, did you know, the seat-belt requirement is only for the driver, not the front seat passenger! :D I still wonder why... if you know the answer, do let me know.

This one takes the cake. It happened in Rajkot. So my cousin, who also happens to be a professor in a reputed college in the city, was driving us to a book store which is quite far from home. And since mom and I had to go shopping afterwards, he said he will give us both a ride on his scooter. In hurry, he forgot to remove his hat and wear a helmet instead. So right in middle of an extremely crowded intersection, a cop comes running in the middle where we are trying to balance the two-wheeler with three of us adults' weight and such slow speed, or rather no speed at all. The cop removes the scooter keys and runs back to the curbside in corner. So we have come to a complete stop in middle of jam packed intersection. Imagine the scene... traffic is already bad and there is a scooter with three adults on and not moving at all. Hahahaha! For a moment, I didn't even realize what had happened as I was too busy watching the traffic. I mean come on, it's so much fun to watch that kind of traffic - that too from being in middle of it - when the only kind of traffic you get to see on daily basis is bumper to bumper cars on a five-lane freeway. In any case, eventually I realized we had come to complete stop because my cousin started getting very upset at what had just happened. It's humiliating to have been stopped by a cop in middle of cross roads, that too if you're a professor! I was feeling bad and funny at the same time. Finally, another cop, who wasn't blowing his top, came back with the keys realizing that there was no way we could pull over on the side without the key. And we moved on the side. My cousin was too busy getting upset with the polite officer about what the other officer just did (that is to remove the keys like that). He said they do this because a lot of people don't even stop and run away from such crowded intersections so they started this new tradition of removing the keys to keep crazy drivers from running away! LOL I like that idea... wish they tried it some time here in the US. I think the cop will get a ticket for doing that. ;) The most fun part now - so the nicer cop says he must write a ticket as we were riding three adults, which for some reasons is illegal? (not sure whether that's true at all as I saw four adults on a motorbike in Ahmedabad just a couple of days back before this happened) and that the driver isn't wearing a helmet. So we had to pay the fine for a ticket. Then he asks us whether we were going to be driving around like that for more time and when we said yes, he told us he will write us a paper ticket so that next time around when a cop stops us, we can just show that to them and they won't give us another ticket. Hahahaha! Apparently, the paper ticket costs Rs. 100 and non-paper ticket is Rs. 50. We took the paper ticket paid off the fine and went about our shopping trip. When I told this story to a friend of mine in US, she told me about how another friend of hers got two tickets within less than a few minutes for not stopping at two consecutive stop signs in a residential area.

And a couple of more photos to add to the series!

In India, pedestrians are not the only ones who have a right of way.

Cows crossing the road
Originally uploaded by kananj

Traffic goes which way again?

Driving from Paravadi to Damnagar
Originally uploaded by kananj

Were these adventures enjoyable? You bet!


Aspi said...

Cops are ingenious in India! I liked that key story a lot.

Last time I was there I noticed that all the traffic cops had abandoned their stations and were off standing to the side in some shade because the sun was really strong.

Kanan said...

Aspi, tell me about it. :D It's so much fun to watch them. Thanks, glad you enjoyed reading the key story too. ;) I had so much fun being part of it. Never had seen anything like that before.