Back to Bangalore, and Driving Tales 1

Walking up again in Bangalore with an easy day ahead was quite comforting, though Sellappan didn’t have the same luxury, as he was heading for a long shift at the office.

I spent the day very peacefully, and spent some time gathering my thoughts about driving in India. Today I’m scratching the surface with how everything looks.

Road Signs

So far, I haven’t seen many, apart from milage (kilometerage?)/lane signs on the highway. There seems to be a push to make the roads safer, backed by politicians with huge billboards about keeping the road safe. There are also plenty of signs with advice such as: BE SAFE WEAR HELMET and FOLLOW TRAFFIC RULES.

Decorating Your Vehicle

I’m talking mainly now about the Ashok Leyland trucks which are ubiquitous around here. The bed of the truck is usually yellow, and will have various bits of information painted on the side, such as the driver/owner’s  contact details as well as any business names. On the back of the truck, there is a space to paint whatever slogan or idea you’d like – much like a US bumper sticker. Most trucks have SOUND HORN which is a request for an overtaking driver to do so. I have also seen anti drink-driving slogans. The most puzzling thing I’d seen painted so far was “We Two Ours One”.  Sellappan has explained this one to me now, but I’d like to hear your guesses. Some of mine were very far off!

While we’re on trucks, you can’t miss the flower garlands which occasionally adorn the cabs of the trucks. There is no end to the combinations of cool stuff to put on your dashboard either, gods are particularly popular. I’m not sure there’s a god of Ashok Leyland trucks, but their corporate buildings are huge edifices of steel and glass, so they seem to be doing ok. Other vehicles often have similar interior cab decorations, including rickshaws.

When it comes to buses, most of these are owned by private companies or by the government, so there is a lot less scope for personalisation. Some buses have a decorated cab inside, but my favourite type of bus has to be the disco bus. Let me explain. It is possible to attach ropes of lights around your windscreen, and it is also possible to adapt your headlamps to cycle through red, blue, green and white flashes, just like your windscreen rope. After that you can stick on your hazard lights and fog lights and be the life of the… Road.

The final thing I’d like to point out is what looks like a mask, which you can place on the back of your vehicle (or indeed on your house, place of business…) to prevent people casting eyes on you. The face is usually white, with dark horns, wide eyes and a red, pointy sticking out tongue. He’ll look out for you.

What’s on the Road?

The striking difference from the UK is the types of vehicles that you see – so many motorbikes and scooters, and of course rickshaws too. You also see people carrying impossible things on their motorbike/truck/scooter. There aren’t a lot of pedal cycles around, really, but there’s no such thing as a cycle lane either.

More driving tales tomorrow!

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