Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Indian Highway Code

1) Whenever you feel the need to stop your vehicle, do not waste time on trivialities like signalling or getting your car to the side of the road. Simply stop your car in the middle of the road, and turn on the hazard warning lights. Turning on the warning lights gives you the right to stop where you please, for as long as you please, regardless of any pileups behind you. For extra effect, carry a newspaper with you that you may peruse while exercising your fundamental rights. This occupies your tiny little mind while waiting for your spouse to finish shopping, and also makes it easier to ignore all those idiots gesticulating at you.

2) The correct lane to be on just before turning right is the lane on the extreme left. And the lane on the extreme right is of course what you shall use to turn left. The middle lane is reserved for those free souls who prefer to live life on the edge, and decide at the last nanosecond which direction they'd like their car to point to. To add to this, if driving on an undivided road, the correct procedure to turn right is to switch on the turn signal, and then move over to the lane for oncoming traffic about half a kilometer before you turn. Proceed calmly. It is for the oncoming traffic to fend for itself; after all, you have switched on the turn signal.

3) If you're on a divided highway, and for some reason wish to turn around, do not waste time and fuel waiting for a break in the divider. Simply turn your car right round on the side of the road you currently are on. Since you are a conscientious citizen, you would want to keep to the left side of the road. While this would mean that you are on the fast lane for oncoming traffic, and the potential collision velocity could be in the region of 200 kph, don't let that bother you too much.

4) Red lights are more suggestions than rules. As in, "If it doesn't put you off, and there isn't too much going on in your life right now, you might consider stopping here." Feel free to honk at anyone who stops for over 5 seconds at a signal.

5) A recent scientific study has concluded that honking like a fucking idiot for no apparent reason makes you really popular with the ladies. It seems it makes them want to take you home and have wild sex with, through the night.

6) A friend of mine told me that while abroad, he came upon this 4-way intersection where the traffic lights had failed. It seems all the cars stopped, and then proceeded to cross the intersection one at a time in the order of whoever reached first. He said that he hoped to see something like this in Pune soon. The point of this story is NOT that we should all strive for the day when this will happen here. The point is that you should not be telling things like this in a moving vehicle within earshot of the driver. He may fall off his seat laughing, resulting in a serious accident.

7) As long as you keep a distance of 5 millimeters between your front bumper and the rear bumper of the car ahead of you, you are NOT tailgating. Further, so long as you honk or flash your lights, you are, by law, entitled to see the slower car ahead of you vanish into thin air within the next 2 seconds.

8) So there's this long-lost friend of yours that you want to catch up with. What do you do? Are you thinking, "Invite him/her over to your place, or set up a dinner or coffee meeting?" Aha, got you there! The correct procedure is to get two bikes, rush to the busiest road in your vicinity, and then have a long, leisured conversation while the two of you ride side-by-side at about 20 kph. This is known as synchronized riding. The Indian government, sensing a couple of guaranteed golds, is lobbying hard to make this an Olympic sport.

9) If you happen to own a bicycle, or a vehicle that hits the red line the moment you touch about 15 kph, the centre of the road is your spot. You own it.

10) The correct thing to do, while coming upon a car waiting to cross a very busy highway is not to wait behind it, as commonly believed, but to pull up alongside it so that you are now blocking his/her vision on one side. Since that car is also blocking your vision on one side, the two of you can now proceed to glare at each other for about 5 minutes. And then both of you, half blinded, may vault your vehicles ahead simultaneously, resulting in a nice, chaotic traffic jam. There are several advantages to this over the traditional "waiting behind the first car" approach. I will blog about them once I find out what they are.

11) If you're a passenger-ferrying vehicle, think nothing of stopping as far towards the middle of the road as possible when letting your passengers out. After all, population control shouldn't be something that's left just to contraceptives. On this topic, if you're a bus driver, it's all right to do an Orson Welles and ask yourself whether you'd really care if one of those little dots you see from your perch high up stopped moving.

12) If you're a truck driver doing 15 kph, and happen upon another truck doing 14.5 kph, attempt to overtake immediately! After all, it is the dream of any motorist who takes his or her car out on the expressway to sit and stare at the exhausts of 2 trucks for half an hour. (I feel a little guilty about this one. In my experience, trucks are the best behaved vehicles outside of city limits (please note that I am not including those homicidal maniacs who masquerade as intercity bus drivers in this category), and those guys do have their schedules to keep.)

13) Within city limits at night, you shall travel only by high beam. Also, if by some accident, you happen to be on low beam, please do remember to switch to high beam the moment you spy a car coming in the other direction. This is a form of friendly greeting.

14) Be really economical with all kinds of turn signals and lights (except, of course, with the above-mentioned high beam). Those things wear out fast. Really.

15) If you're a pedestrian, think nothing of crossing the road at the exact moment the light turns green for the vehicles. Motorists love jamming on the brakes, stalling their engines, and being rammed from behind. That's what we live for.

For the authorities:-

1) All traffic lights shall be turned off at 9 PM, irrespective of how busy or dangerous the intersection is.

2) If you work in the RTO, and are responsible for issuing driving licenses, you shall grant the license to anyone who can drive a car in a circle on a football field, and reverse the car into a spot that is roughly 4 goalposts wide - provided s/he doesn't stall the vehicle more than 5 times during the course of the exercise, of course.

3) All traffic signs and directions will be in regional languages only. This is as Indians are really hospitable people, and do not like to burden their guests with unnecessary rules.

4) If there's some construction going on on the road, the correct place to leave the material while retiring for the day is on the fast lane, next to the divider. Also, a good way to let motorists know that there is construction going on is NOT to leave well-lit warning signs, as this may prove energy inefficient; but rather, leaving an unlit boulder (not that I've seen lit boulders) in the middle of the road.

5) No flyover or construction on a heavily-used road shall be completed before 5 years. We like our share of moral policing, and as Calvin's Dad would put it, hardships build character.

"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. SUVs on the Golden Quadrilateral, hurtling towards me on the wrong side of the road. I watched headlights on high beam glitter in the dark near India Gate. All those moments will be lost in time... like lane discipline at an intersection in Pune... Time to die." - Roy Batty, Blade Runner.

Thus concludes Part Three of my "commute whinge" series. The UK version of the Highway Code is here.