India: Please Honk
Honking in India is a little bit different. It’s obvious if you drive on the streets, but it’s also obvious if you just look at the cars. Many trucks have signs or are painted telling you to please honk, or use the horn, or whatever it may say. The horn is not loaded with the anger of a US honk; the Indian honk is just telling you ‘I’m coming through!’ So I guess it is more of a kind gesture. But everyone is honking together at the same time so if this was a dialogue it’s like hundreds of people just yelling ‘I’m coming through, move out of the way’ or ‘I’m coming through watch out!’
The roads seem to have directions, like on this side you drive one way and on the other side you drive the opposite, but they really don’t. People may drive any way. Or zoom around. And scooters will slide through. And cows will be on the side of the road, or maybe not exactly on the side. And the tuk-tuks some how slide through. And sometimes there are rickshaw bikers. If you are crossing the street look both ways, even if traffic is supposed to go one way.
At first I’m on edge there, but I think each day I get a little more comfortable with the madness, but I think it would take me a month to get more used to it, and even then I wouldn’t be used to it.
Are the roads the craziest in India? Well I think the craziness of the roads and relative level of development of the country is closely linked. The streets in Cairo were crazy as well. They were a different kind of crazy. Fewer rickshaws and cows, but more people walking across. I actually thought Cairo was crazier.
When you leave a train station or a bus station or an airport you are swarmed by tuk-tuk drivers. They just find you, because you stand out like a sore thumb, and they follow you and they do not stop. Sometimes I would take tuk-tuks around, but the extra-aggressive pushiness around the transit centers I found really annoying. Maybe that is a good sales tactic with other people. Maybe it’s also cultural because there are so many people and how else will they get a ride. It’s like this also at major tourist sites. You leave the site and — boom! — tuk tuk drivers from all directions trying to give you a ride.
In Jaipur, Uber worked surprisingly well. I was also able to use it in Agra and New Delhi. Everything takes way longer than it seems, but that it worked was still very cool. Some major sites are easy to find, but often the language barrier was such that I would have had a very hard time trying to navigate to a lesser known spot.