Monday, February 11, 2008

India - 10 February 2008 - Traveing the Roads of India

Travel over the roads of India is far different than at home. On several occasions, I have looked up to see a truck coming right at us, only for us or it to veer off to the left with seconds to spare. (Here, as elsewhere with British influence, people drive on the left, and steering wheels are on the right.) There is so much pedestrian, bicycle and moped traffic that it is difficult to stay in one’s lane for very long. In rural India, there are also bullock and donkey carts, which are my personal favorite. The drivers of these stand and direct their animals with reins. Other vehicles, some handmade, also appear on the roads.

Driving on the streets of the villages and towns is where it gets really interesting. I’m glad I wasn’t driving, and I found it better to just look out the side windows…which held plenty of interest anyway. Both sides of the streets are filled with a mind-numbing assemblage of little shops, kiosks, stores, and often, what looks like a big box on stilts, inside which will be perched a merchant selling brightly colored packets of chewing tobacco. It would be easy to purchase food for simple here, although with more walking required. More complicated meals would probably require more knowledge of who sells what.

The shops attract commerce of course, and that’s what makes the driving interesting – all the people coming to shop. When we came into a village late one evening, the streets were almost vacant, and very simple to navigate.

On several occasions as we drove through the towns during daylight hours we came into near gridlock. It can happen when a truck or cart breaks down in the road…and is being repaired on the spot….or left in search of parts. Or it can happen from just congestion. Not infrequently we were hemmed completely in by vehicles and people and cows. But most of the time, the driver calmly used the horn and threaded his way through.

Speaking of cows, they are common in the towns and cities. Since they are not eaten, they have few enemies. All that I have seen eating have been eating garbage. They just wander loose.

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