How to drive in India

[ I have enrolled in a 12 weeks travel writing course with the Matador University. As a part of our course work we have to write articles and publish them in our blog. This piece is part of the first assignment to write an evergreen piece; one that will remain fresh and relevant a year from now.]

Traveling to India? Wondering how you will manage with that rented car? Nightmares about the traffic? Fear not! Once you learn a few tricks it will be a smooth ride.

1.Understand how traffic lights work

All of the Indian cities have traffic lights. Whether they are followed or not is another question. Your best bet would be to wait at the red light, if the train of vehicles behind you honk and curse that’s your cue to ‘go’.  Do not wait for the lights to change. Take your chance and drive before the stampede begins.

2. Learn how to make a right turn

Want to make a right turn? You have to make your own way.  Indicators do not speak, might does. Having said that it will be a wise decision to watch out for trucks and tankers because unless you are driving one of them they definitely are on the winning side. One important point which will get you going is to remember to keep inching your way slowly. There will come a point when your vehicle is almost in the middle of the lane. At this point someone will stop and let you make that turn.

Right turns in India are definitely a lesson in patience!

3. Take the cow by its tail

Cows are a common sight on the road. If you find a cow blocking your way nudge it gently from the back. The cow moves in the direction it is looking at, so at no cost do you do want to nudge it from the front. Be on your guard even when the cow walks away because it might just suddenly stop in the middle and graze on the weeds that grow out of pot holes. Nudging at this point sometimes proves to be unhelpful. Hence before you take on the cow, if you find it minding its own business then gently snake around it. Believe me it saves a lot of trouble.

4.  Watch out for elephants while reversing

…. especially at night. Elephants camouflage into the night so you need to be extra careful while backing out in the night. Most states have passed a law requiring reflectors on an elephant’s tail while at night.  So while driving if you see a spot of red light swaying in thin air make sure do not drive straight  into it. It might just be the last move you make.

5. Finally always expect surprises

Driving like everyone else on the road is a maniac, helps ease out the stress (a tiny bit!). And anticipate that the guy at the far left of the road to make a right turn at an intersection, that the guy in front of you will stop in the middle of the road and take a U-turn into the wrong lane, that the guy on the motorbike will push his bike across the barrier to get to the other side and it will be useful to expect the guy on the opposite side of the road to suddenly drive into your side because he finds it a little more spacious!

Expect the unexpected and you will do just fine!