The drivers here in Hyderabad are a peculiar sort. As we’ve mentioned in the past, the driving is a nightmare. There seems to be virtually no laws or rules, save for one: Always keep going.
Don’t stop for people, they’ll jump out of the way. Don’t swerve for dogs…they are nimble enough (except for those hobbling along on 3 legs…they didn’t quite make the cut). Swerve for the water buffalo, because they will dent your car, but always find a tiny space to squeeze through in the middle of the herd…they don’t seem to get too angry if you cut them off. Don’t worry if you are surrounded by other cars on all sides…you can always find space to squeeze into…just keep going!
However, when there are 2 cars wanting to go in opposite directions on the very same part of the road, there is trouble. A little game of “chicken” commences, with both of them trying to veer into the empty space at the same time. This inevitably results in the two cars facing each other, bumper to bumper, with nowhere to go. The mad honking and gesturing begins, as if whoever can lay on the horn the loudest or longest will magically be awarded with a little bridge over the other car. Of course, no little bridge appears, and the cars will stay like that for many uncomfortable moments, until one of them surrenders and veers off, nearly scraping the side of his enemy in the process.
My driver happens to be one of the more stubborn ones. I am not certain that I have ever seen him back down in one of these exchanges. In fact, I swear he tries to get in those situations. A car will be coming toward us. Due to cows or people or broken-down auto rickshaws, there is only room for one to go through. Any sensible person would pull over and let the other car through, seeing that two cannot possibly fit, but not our driver. He plows ahead as if he is driving a presidential limo, and everyone must move out of his way. When the other driver does not comply, he starts gesturing wildly and mumbling, and tapping his head in a universal sign meaning “This other driver is obviously stupid and/or mentally unstable”.
As you might imagine, I am not too fond of these little exchanges. I sit and stare dumbly ahead, pretending that I’m oblivious to what is going on beside me. I keep expecting, at any moment, to have the other driver jump out and start pounding on our car. Luckily, that hasn’t happened. Eventually, everyone just seems to move out of the way. Perhaps what I see as the universal symbol for “idiot” is actually some sort of sign language for “get outta my way or this mute western woman beside me will crack your head open like a ripe coconut!” Who knows?
Anyway, today, when I experienced this yet another time, I thought of a poem by Dr. Seuss. It is very fitting in this situation, as it seems to sum up the attitude of our driver (and many Indian drivers) perfectly. Enjoy!
One day, making tracks In the prairie of Prax, Came a North-Going Zax And a South-Going Zax. And it happened that both of them came to a place Where they bumped. There they stood. Foot to foot. Face to face. "Look here, now!" the North-Going Zax said, "I say! You are blocking my path. You are right in my way. I'm a North-Going Zax and I always go north. Get out of my way, now, and let me go forth!" "Who's in whose way?" snapped the South-Going Zax. "I always go south, making south-going tracks. So you're in MY way! And I ask you to move And let me go south in my south-going groove." Then the North-Going Zax puffed his chest up with pride. "I never," he said, "take a step to one side. And I'll prove to you that I won't change my ways If I have to keep standing here fifty-nine days!" "And I'll prove to YOU," yelled the South-Going Zax, "That I can stand here in the prairie of Prax For fifty-nine years! For I live by a rule That I learned as a boy back in South-Going School. Never budge! That's my rule. Never budge in the least! Not an inch to the west! Not an inch to the east! I'll stay here, not budging! I can and I will If it makes you and me and the whole world stand still!" Well... Of course the world didn't stand still. The world grew. In a couple of years, the new highway came through And they built it right over those two stubborn Zax And left them there, standing un-budge in their tracks.