I come from a place, India, where the traffic is horrendous. It’s not your usual London rush hour bad. It is terrifying! To cover 20 miles in my hometown of New Delhi, in peak rush hour traffic, it takes an easy 2 hours. That is on a good day, when there’s nothing on the road. Neither are there any processions, accidents nor roadworks. Just everybody trying to inch along to reach their office on time. If there’s rain, you might consider taking a sick day than venture out in the traffic. New Delhi still has better infrastructure than other metropolitan cities in the country. Places like Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata witness some of the worst traffic conditions in the country.
There’s no lane driving. There’s not even a concept of lanes in the country. A 6-lane road becomes an 8-lane road. A 2-lane back road becomes a 4-lane highway. There is chaos, but there is an order to the madness. You must adapt as there’s not one set way to drive in that country. You not only have to anticipate what the person in front of you or on either side is doing. You must anticipate what people behind you are thinking. There always somebody who drives faster than you and is always driving rash, also known as “the thrill seeker.” But you manage. You get around to figuring out the best path for you in the traffic. Sometimes you get stuck because a “simpleton” couldn’t figure his way out and broke the order of the chaos. Road rage is imminent, it’s always lurking around the corner waiting to pounce at the first opportunity.
There are traffic rules, but they don’t exist for the common drivers on the streets. Nobody wears a helmet on a motorbike. People detest wearing seatbelts in cars. They only stop at a signal when they a see cop patrolling the area. People overtake from the left at full speed. Two-wheelers filter through traffic endlessly. Autorickshaws and cabs stop to pick up fare wherever they feel like. Buses get too close to other vehicles, you’d sometimes feel the bus drivers think they’re in a classic Mini Cooper. Pedestrians have no right of way. If a car stops, they’re lucky to cross. Otherwise they must wait till the roads are cleared because most roads don’t have either a foot over bridge or a subway.
But coming to the UK really changed my perception of how people drive. People follow the rules, they let others pass by. And everybody drives around cordially. Well, what if you’re walking on the footpath and need to cross the road? Just start walking on the zebra crossing and every vehicle on the road stops for you! You have got to be kidding me! This never happens in India. There, being the king of the road depends on the size of the car you’re driving. Two wheelers will squeeze their way around like a snake. Hatchbacks get bullied by everybody, SUVs will bully everybody. Saloon cars are in a constant state of disillusionment. They’re either too small to bully or are too big to be bullied. Buses and lorries are the elephants of the road, everybody clears the way for them as soon as they approach behind them.
I’m not trying to say the driving conditions in the UK are perfect. There are people who still break the rules. There are “thrill seekers” here too, but they are smart enough to know the place to do so. Despite the rush on the roads, it takes just an hour to cover 60 miles. That’s twice the distance with half the time it takes in New Delhi. Traffic rules here are strict and the fines are huge and aplenty.
However different the two countries may be, their driving styles are almost the same. It doesn’t matter if you’re from New Delhi or Nottingham. If there is traffic, you’ll be stuck. In that traffic, a “simpleton” comes along to block the way for everybody and ruin the day for everybody. There are still instances of road rage here. Humans will remain humans, wherever they may be.