Cultural Musings from India

A few playful observations on my Indian experience.

Traffic: 

It is insane.  My group spends about 3 hours per day in the car so I have experienced a lot on Bangalore’s streets.

There are more cars than there are lanes; swarms of motorbikes weave in and out of any available space, and there is an endless stream of “autos” aka Tuk-Tuks (three wheel taxis).  Due to their erratic driving and total disregard for traffic laws I have given Tuk-Tuks the nickname, “TukFast TukFurious:  Bangalore Drift”.

Instead of stopping their vehicle, Indian drivers are more likely to slow down and honk.  Save for the wheels and the engine, the horn is probably the most important aspect of an Indian car.

Interestingly enough, I’ve noticed that the horns are not used in anger, but rather as a means of communication.  In fact, I have yet to see any act of “road-rage” even though I have witnessed multiple near-accidents.

The honking is comparable to how whales communicate.  The cars ping sounds off of one another; for example, a honk may mean something like, “stay in your line or I may kill you”, or, “please, come into my line and I hope you have a nice day!”  Regardless of the meaning, the incessant honking is essential to choreographing the organized chaos of the Indian roadways.

There have been two moments in the car that I find the most memorable.

  1. Being stuck in a traffic jam, only to realize that it was due to a full-grown cow standing in the middle of the street.
  2. One day our sponsor teased us because we were all visibly tense when our driver turned onto a two-way road.  We were tense because both lanes—one north and one south—were both headed south.  We were headed north.  She said, “Haven’t you seen a two lane road before?”  We responded yes, but informed her that the two-way roads we know often have cars going in both directions without playing chicken.

It is so bad that there are multiple road signs that request drivers to obey simple rules.

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The Food:

Every time I think I’m sick of Indian food it is time for another meal.  It is as good as I hoped it would be.

 

Cricket:

India is obsessed with cricket.  Our hotel has two sports channels devoted solely to the sport, and the other sports channels devote half their programming to the game.  The biggest athlete in the country seems to be Virat Kholi, an Indian batsman who appears on numerous billboards.

When I arrived here two weeks ago I knew next to nothing about the sport.  However, a few days in, I realized that I really wanted to play before I left.  That opportunity presented itself when some classmates and I walked past a pick up game.

We stood and watched until a boy approached and asked if we wanted to play.  (Actually, he asked if we wanted to play soccer, but we parlayed that invite into the cricket game being played a few yards away.)  Turns out, I can bowl (pitch) but am no good with a bat.  Regardless, it was an amazing 45 minutes spent learning and playing cricket, and interacting with some genuinely friendly locals.  It is one of the highlights of my trip so far.

 

The People:

As I touched upon above, the people of India are incredibly friendly.  They inexplicably do not get road-rage, share their food/assistance/cricket bats, and are more than happy to offer directions when asked.  However, I have noticed that said directions are often times not the most reliable.

Generally, as part of their hospitable and friendly nature, Indians do not wish to disappoint.  As such, any Indian I have asked street directions for has given me an answer.  Whether or not said answer is correct is another story.  As a result, I have learned not to accept a confirmation of directions as fact unless the information is given unanimously, immediately, and confidently.

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