Have any of you ever driven a car, bike, bus, lorry or auto-rickshaw in India? If yes, then you know what I mean by “precision driving.” For people who have not, Precision driving is the art of calculation in a matter of seconds whether you will scrape, hit, dash, or fall on any other vehicle in the road while driving, and take the risk with respect to your calculations. I have a friend who had recently come back form USA after 5 years of staying in client’s location (He went onsite guys!! Onsite!!). And he had so wonderfully accustomed himself to his temporary lifestyle; the poor chap forgot how to drive in India.
I made the mistake of going out with him on a weekend. Thankfully, we Ubered. My friend was squealing most of the way (the poor driver was quite shocked. One, because I bet he has never seen anyone squeal this much. Two, my friend was asking him to drive slow; he was doing 60 Kmph guys). It was a traumatic experience for my friend, my other friends, the driver, and myself.
Indians drive through a huge crowd. People are in abundance and so are vehicles; sometimes there are dogs, pigeons, and occasionally cows. Therefore, we just, well, learnt to navigate our way through vehicles, people, and other mammals and birds. It is a necessity. It is precision driving.
I’ll explain. Our driver was trying to overtake (Yup! You read right!) a vehicle that was driving much slowly than him (It is quite normal in India!! The driver in front of us did not even bat an eyelash). So, he turned the left indicator on and moved lanes, drove to overtake the car in front of him, turned the right indicator on and switched lanes again. There was another instance where we have to drive 2 Kms and take a turn to reach the road we wanted to take. But, there was a gap in the divider just few feet away from the place we wanted to turn; you have to drive on the wrong side of the road to reach the gap in the divider. So, obviously (LOL! You’re probably thinking Indians are crazy), our driver drove on the wrong side. Come on! He saved petrol!! (petrol costs a lot in India guys! We are not some super power and we don’t help out and interfere in oil-rich countries’ affairs). He drove on the wrong side, with a man squealing in the backseat, sounded the horn several times, kept an eye for the traffic police, and gave an ‘I don’t care’ attitude to the passing drivers who were staring him down.
The driver had to calculate the hit and miss throughout this journey. He had to multitask and keep an alert mind. I sometimes want to fix some electrodes on a driver in India and check. I am sure there will be extreme brain activity (Why the hell are these people not being recruited for some hardcore racing? I’ll never know).
I know this is stressful, wasteful, and congested. We do know! In my recent trip to Singapore, I’d been fascinated with the roads and vehicles. Of course, the cars were all new and hi-tech (Singapore is like a north Indian of countries! They refurbish and show off regularly!!). More than the newness of the vehicles, I was intrigued by the way the drivers drove. There were very less vehicles in the road. The drivers drove in a methodical way. There was no havoc, no calculations, no bargaining, and no people on the road. My friend from USA observed the same things. Driving in USA is easy, he said. Seems! Everyone follows the rules. Or at least most of them! Easy right? Just follow rules.
Sigh! I wish this was this easy. The road sizes differ in breadth and thickness in India. The vehicles differ from a two-wheeler, four-wheeler, eight-wheeler, and twelve-wheeler. Amidst these wheels, we accommodate people, birds and animals. So yeah! It will take a lot of time for us to get to “automatic driving” from “precision driving.” Till then! Pray! Get in! and buckle up. Because I am sure there are no rides like this in any amusement parks in the world. This is real time!