Driving in Delhi

About 2 weeks ago, Sally and I decided to head to the mall for a relaxing Sunday. The idea of venturing across town in an auto rickshaw didn't appeal to either of us, and my Honda City sat out front taunting us - as if to say... Drive me!!!

And so I did.

I've decided there are really three things that make driving here tough. For starters, in Delhi, lanes are little more than a suggested path for you to drive in. If there is room to the left of a tree off the road that would save you 2 seconds in total driving time on your 4 hour journey - well then - clearly you take that dirt path.

Of course, if you miss a turn, taking a u-turn and coming back around is not an option. The only sensible thing to do is to put the car in reverse and travel the 100 yards back to the spot of the missed turn.

As a driver, if you manage to not hit the cars in reverse, or the cars re-entering the roadway from the sidewalk - you still have to deal with the fact that stoplights also are little more than a suggested course of action. After all, how could you not play frogger when you spot a five foot gap in traffic.

Truth be told, navigating this mess isn't that hard. It seems understood by all drivers that it is never your responsibility to avoid an accident - it is everyone elses. In some strange way - this seems to work. I like to think of it as a flock of geese. Somehow they all fly for thousands of miles in close proximity - but never hit each other.

The second issue I face here is the fact that I've barely driven a manual car. I know... I know... so American. But it's true. I've had an automatic since I turned 16, and the only time I ever drove stick was when I got roped into being Designated Driver in college. That trip ended with my friend replacing his clutch....

Of course, the third Issue for all US drivers, is that you are on the wrong side of the road... and the wrong side of the car. I find this the most difficult part of the equation. So, as we set out on our journey to Select Citywalk in Saket - I told Sally she had one job. Make sure I don't hit anything on the left.

Unfortunately for me, Sally hasn't worked since October 2. In this time, her ability to stay on task seems to have gone out the window.... (sorry Sally)... and so midway through our journey - it happened.

It was over in a second, in fact - by the time Sally could utter - "We're too close" - I'd scraped the vehicle, corrected the path of my car and we were free from the Auto Rickshaw. No damage was visible on the steely beast (sounds more dramatic than saying the green and yellow motorized rollerskate) and so we continued on our way...

We made it to the mall, and then it struck me... This adventure wasn't relaxing at all. It took the entire lunch for me to relax. By the time I finally felt myself again, it was time to head home. I thought to myself - why bother. I'll stick to Auto Rickshaws from now on.

And then - this weekend - I snapped the below photo. If that 11 year old kid can drive a moped in these streets, then surely - I can handle Delhi Traffic... I hope.

Life in Delhi, originally uploaded by shelmes.