Out and About

It’s a jungle out there…

…on the streets of Bombay I mean.How do people even drive here? Actually, let me rephrase that. Why do people even want to drive here?I had the most stressful time yesterday. The driving scene in Bombay seems to be getting from bad to worse as the years go on. Back when I used to live here about 7 years ago, people never followed the lane system. You would see about 5 to 7 lanes of cars, buses, trucks, autos and cabs on a road with 3 lanes [Makes you wonder why they bother spending money painting those white lines on the roads in the first place!] But I think that was as bad as it got along with the terrible roads.

However, since the last time I visited a couple of years ago, and now, I notice that people don’t bother stopping at red lights any more. If you do, there are other vehicles honking from behind to get a move on it. I don’t understand how that works! Why would you not stop at a red light? And it’s not just in the suburbs. It’s in places near the international airport and everywhere else.

Then there are the signs indicating what speed one must go. And no one follows that. We were in a cab yesterday night who drove 90 ks in a 50 k zone. And only here can you get two vehicles on the same side of the road driving towards each other. There is no concept of staying on the different side of the median strip. And distance between vehicles. That’s not even part of their knowledge. Vehicles are so close to one another on all sides, it’s a miracle they aren’t on top of one another!

And it’s peak hour in some areas even at midnight. Thanks to trucks just parked on one lane or vehicles stopping right in the middle of the road because they own the road.

Last night, we went to drop off my cousin at the airport and on the drive back after a downpour, I found myself clutching the door handle and holding on for dear life. Because there was no seatbelt in the back either. I get stressed driving in Sydney to and from work and suffer immense road rage. But I’ve never been stressed as a passenger. And I’ve never even been as stressed as I was last night.

I think I need a reminder in my car back home in Sydney saying “Remember Bombay”. That should help curb my road rage there and put things in perspective.

I would so love to video crazy driving and in my next 2 weeks here, I’m going to try.

What I do want to know from other Indian readers…does this happen in other states and cities too? Or is it just confined to Bombay? Do other states also flout rules around stopping at red lights?

To my Aussie readers, we drive on the same side of the road in Aus as they are supposed to drive in India. Just to give you an idea about how wrong it is! And to American readers, it’s supposed to be the opposite side of the road as you guys.

It’s funny to think I was scared of flying just a week ago. Now I’m just scared to be on the roads!

It is without a doubt a jungle out there. And only the fittest survive. As a mate of mine once mentioned the last time I visited: when driving in India, you have to know what the other driver is going to do even before the other driver knows it himself/herself.

On a slightly side note, I landed safely, had a weird person sitting next to me on the Singapore to Bombay flight who smelt like she hadn’t showered in years, felt nauseous on that flight (motion sickness?), liked seeing my parents and sister here, am ignoring the bitch of a grandmother, was sweating like a pig thanks to power failure the day I landed, have already eaten some great food, and am down with a sore throat and runny nose less than 24 hours in.  

Welcome to India!

Until next time,


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  • soulmate
    3 June 2011 at 5:33 am

    Mumbai is no different from any other city.. Even in Pune, the traffic is bad. One can drive on any side of the road, take a U turn, cross the road, stop right in the middle of the road.. so welcome.. 🙂 Get better soon.. Enjoy the bhelpuri, sevpuri..

  • Prajakta Pradhan
    3 June 2011 at 6:45 am

    Yes, it might be a jungle out there. But you were living in this same jungle before 7 years. Why do you have to behave suddenly as if you have landed from the moon? I really cannot understand why people who have stayed out of India  for some time come back and start criticising India the moment they land.  Perhaps you would consider never to come back then. Sorry for being so blunt. Nevertheless, if possible, try and enjoy your stay in India.

  • Itisnu
    3 June 2011 at 6:51 am

    you know what when I was in Mumbai I felt it’s far more better than what we have in Indore..and if you’re cursing Mumbai’s traffic [which is natural] you would not even want to step outside here in Indore 🙁 

    Overall in India the road sense is nil in people and even if they’re taught they don’t want to learn at all and follow their own rules of driving 🙁

  • Psych Babbler
    3 June 2011 at 7:03 am

    Ah okay…so it’s elsewhere too. The thing is, I don’t ever remember people not stopping for red lights. They used to stop before. It’s quite scary to see at a crossroads all sides moving ahead. And yes, I’m looking forward to the food! That’s for sure! Already enjoyed pav bhaji on my first day and vada pav yesterday….next in line bhel puri, sev puri and pani puri! 😀

  • Psych Babbler
    3 June 2011 at 7:10 am

    Actually Prajakta, I did mention it wasn’t so bad before. People never stayed in the lane but they still stopped at red lights. And in any case, even back then I used to complain about all this. I’ve never hidden that fact. So no, it’s not just because I’ve stayed out of India and come back for a holiday that I’m complaining — I have always done that. Back then I would complain more about other things including pollution of all kinds and certain people’s attitudes and about the condition of the roads and how the trains came to a standstill every monsoon at least once among other things. And to be honest, if I didn’t have my parents and sister here, I probably wouldn’t be coming back even to visit. (Although I do love the food!)

  • Psych Babbler
    3 June 2011 at 7:13 am

    Not that I drove before Nu but from what I noticed people used to stop at red lights and stuff. But now they don’t and I was in Bandra, Sion, Andheri and all these places and it’s the same everywhere. Go figure. It really does seem like every one makes their own road rules. And in the end, the fittest survive. I know I wouldn’t. I think that’s one of the reason why I didn’t get my license here even when I had turned 18…was too scared and found buses and trains more dependable! Can’t believe that Indore is worse than this…

  • Sidmay
    3 June 2011 at 8:27 am

    Many ppl have already made a point of how traffic condition, road sense has worsened in India. So i wouldn’t comment on that. 

    But one thing which kinda startled me is some of your statements..

    “had a weird person sitting next to me on the Singapore to Bombay flight who smelt like she hadn’t showered in years”  “am ignoring the bitch of a grandmother”

    I agree, this is your forum and you can express your opinion the way you want. But the way you talk about others? Not so cool.

    Sorry for being so blunt. 

    Have a pleasant stay in aamachi mumbai 🙂

  • Raindrop
    3 June 2011 at 10:28 am

    Having lived abroad for a few years and driven around, my hubby is paranoid when it comes to driving in Mumbai. So much so that he refuses to buy a car. Doesn’t want to add to the mayhem, I guess!

  • Raindrop
    3 June 2011 at 10:28 am

    Welcome to Mumbai, btw!

  • Richa
    3 June 2011 at 2:09 pm

    I was in Chennai about 7 years ago and it was like that in Chennai back then. No lane system, no stopping on red lights unless you want to get run over by a bus behind you, the whole nine yards.

    To be honest, back then even I didn’t know what the white lines and yellow lines on the road actually meant. I learned that after I came to the  States. I guess the reason it being a jungle in India is because no one actually gives a driving test in India to get a driver’s license. Hell, a lot of us don’t even bother to get a driver’s license. The expats working with us used to be horrified by the traffic and we had a lot of jokes for them. Like, the traffic rule to drive or ride in Chennai traffic: look to your right, look to your left, if there is space get in. If not then honk, honk, honk till you get a space. Or the one where we explained to them how driving in India is like playing a video game in real life. Only problem, you don’t get extra lives. 

    Any way, enjoy your stay in India and don’t get run down…

  • Titaxy
    3 June 2011 at 2:23 pm


    enjoy your trip and be safe 🙂 get well soon

  • Prats
    3 June 2011 at 2:54 pm

    Now this is a post I would not agree to. Firstly Bombay is decent when it comes to driving you should see Bangalore, Delhi and some other towns. 

    Secondly speed limits are a free market in India they depend upon the available road space more than anything else. I can tell you if you follow road speed you would die out of frustration. Half of the town would have a speed limit of 20 kmph. They were decided in 1920s and never been revamped since.

    I agree there are problems with the people following here but then it also makes the driving exciting keeps you on your toes. I have driven outside India and it is pathetically boring, you might as well keep a brick on the gas and go to sleep. I love driving in India. Its a miracle that how there are no traffic Jams usually and its only when the police is on the signals the jams happen. 

    It would have been a lot less surprising if this came from someone who hasn’t lived in India but someone like you who spent a lot of time here didn’t see the improvement in the conditions is weird. If you noticed there were lesser animals on road and roads were a lot wider. All I can say that improvements are happening, we are moving forward albeit slowly but the key point is we are.

  • BIkram
    3 June 2011 at 2:55 pm

    he he he Reminds me of my last visit I wanted to drive but my cousins asked me to stop after half an hour or so as I was not safe .. I was being a good driver.. and he said We will reach the NEXT DAY.. 🙂 

    but its FUN on roads

  • Nitya
    3 June 2011 at 7:35 pm

    Yes the red light thing startled me when I visited in 2008 after 4 years in the US. The vehicles stopped but they treated the red light like a stop sign and rolled forward soon enough. There were some timers put on the traffic lights and I assumed they were allowed to move forward on red when there was 10-20seconds until the green light. Whatever, didn’t make sense then, doesn’t make sense now.

    Hope you have some pleasant experiences too!

  • Bookwordlover Book Reviews
    4 June 2011 at 2:20 am

    Oh wow, makes my dailypeak hour drive in little old Brisbane sound like a dream – stay safe! 😉

  • Psych Babbler
    4 June 2011 at 4:26 am

    Welcome here Sidmay! Re the two comments you highlighted, well I should have
    specified why I thought the woman was weird…yes, she did smell but that
    didn’t make her weird. What made her weird was that when they served dinner,
    she said she didn’t want any and only wanted orange juice and when they left
    she got angry that she wasn’t served dinner and started swearing about how
    bad the service was. She displayed some other weird behaviours too. And in
    terms of my grandmother, well, regular readers of my blog know how I feel
    about my paternal grandmother and the reasons behind it. Once again, it’s
    not something I have only felt since moving out…she has been a pain in the
    arse for over 15 years now. I have said a lot worse about my grandmother in
    other posts and in real life. And no, I’m not sorry for that.

  • Psych Babbler
    4 June 2011 at 4:28 am

    Hehe…oh Raindrop, public transport seems to be the best option here. My
    dad has complained for decades about the driving here but I never really
    understood him till recently! Probably because I only started driving myself
    a couple of years ago. You got to admit though…it’s a different set of
    skills required to drive in India.

  • Psych Babbler
    4 June 2011 at 4:28 am

    And thanks! 🙂

  • Psych Babbler
    4 June 2011 at 4:34 am

    I think one of my problem Bikram is that I hadn’t learnt to even drive here
    so all my training has been in Australia. It is a different set of skills
    for sure…somehow though, still can’t find it fun because of rains and wet
    roads and still having people not stop at red lights.

  • Psych Babbler
    4 June 2011 at 4:35 am

    Hmm, now it’s more like a give way sign….they barely stop…I thought the
    timers were just an indicator about how long it was before it turned
    green…not a green light on its own! Pleasant experiences so far have all
    been around food! 😀 I am so going to put on all the weight I lost in the
    month of gymming like mad.

  • Psych Babbler
    4 June 2011 at 4:36 am

    Welcome here Bookwordlover! And yes, it puts Sydney peak hour traffic into
    perspective too! 😛 I just have to remember that when I get back.

  • Psych Babbler
    4 June 2011 at 4:44 am

    Ah okay…so it’s like that in Chennai too. You’re right in that not everyone has to give a driving test. My sis got her license here a year or so ago and told me what was involved and it really shocked me. A friend of mine here jokes about how his mum just had to present herself at the place and got a license without having to take a test. On the other hand, I had never thought a license would be needed here and didn’t learn to drive when I was here…public transport was good so there was no need. Hence, all my training was in Aus and that included a rigorous 50 hours of lessons (it’s now 120 hrs) and then a 40 min test (which I failed twice). I do like the analogy of the video game thing though! I’m enjoying the food and the immediate family and friends so far…

  • Psych Babbler
    4 June 2011 at 4:45 am

    😐 Thanks T… 🙂

  • Psych Babbler
    4 June 2011 at 4:50 am

    Okay…haven’t seen B’lore or Delhi or other places but will take your word for it that Bombay is better. The few speed limit signs I noticed were 50 and 60 k zones. And you know, personally Prats, I’d rather not have my driving ‘exciting’ when it is my life at stake. And don’t know about other states but Bombay definitely has traffic jams…experienced a few at midnight the other day. I must say that I had never learnt to drive in India so maybe it came from a different perspective…and the driving was a little better even then. People at least stopped at red lights. My dad has always complained about the driving here and I finally get it now and that’s probably because I myself have been driving the past couple of years. I will admit it takes a different set of skills to drive here. I totally agree with my friend who made the comment of needing to know what the other person is going to do before the other person knows it themselves…that takes skill!

  • Snigdha Bhatta
    4 June 2011 at 10:02 am

    Hey! I’m your Nepali reader! 🙂 & the traffic scenario here in Nepal is no different.  :/ Its not even scary anymore, rather appalling and amusing! Forget the drivers, the traffic policemen are so reckless themselves!  TRAFFIC is HORRRIBLE!!! I mean COME ON …they dont understand driving is JUST like coloring, they just gotta stay inside the lines…but they dont and its sooo infur@7786df709cbe6258772144027505aa5d:disqus ating! Here, people even refuse to wear helmets [I know its totally unrelated] ..It just struck me so yeah..! :S no one cares about safety here! & the policemen don’t give a shit. You just need to fill their pockets & they’ll be ready to act like a slave! GOSH!

    keep writing 🙂 

  • Psych Babbler
    5 June 2011 at 6:05 am

    Snigdha, I loved the analogy of colouring! And agree with you on the helmets bit too…they don’t wear it in India either and there’s heaps of motorcycles and scooters. The policemen scenario sounds about the same here…although as some of my friends I caught up with yesterday were saying — if there’s a quota they have to catch sometimes, then you could end up being unlucky and won’t get away. Go figure!

  • dhiraj jain
    6 June 2011 at 4:06 am

    Its the same everywhere..Delhi is no better and neither is Pune..Just keep clenching that bars and keep praying before you go to sydney again…

    Also would love o read the reactions of the people who were going to ask you some question and u had a planned answer for that. 

  • Psych Babbler
    6 June 2011 at 9:35 am

    I hear you Dhiraj…others have mentioned the same. I guess it’s probably
    worse for me at this point because I never learnt to drive here and got my
    lessons there. Oh and in terms of the dreaded questions…I only got the
    marriage one on the phone to someone so I thought it would come across as
    ruder than sarcastic so stuck with I’m not interested…

  • Magali
    12 June 2011 at 10:28 am

    LOL, I don’t frive but I’m used to it! 😀
    I didn’t know you were in Bombay! 🙁
    Gone back already?

  • Psych Babbler
    12 June 2011 at 4:37 pm

    Y’know Mags…I was used to it too probably before because I didn’t
    drive…but then having learnt all my driving in Aus and then coming back
    here and seeing it from a driver’s perspective, it’s scary! And I’m still in
    Bombay…returning back home on Friday.

  • Magali
    12 June 2011 at 4:47 pm

    yes it is totally scary!! Haha 😀 I wanna learn to drive in a year or two.
    My mom is very anti car, though. Do you wanna meet? 🙂

  • Psych Babbler
    12 June 2011 at 5:02 pm

    Good luck with learning to drive…I put it off for years but my younger sis
    learnt once she was 19. I have a friend in Bombay who refuses to learn to
    drive because it’s so scary. 😛 Re meeting…would have loved to but I’m
    kinda booked for the next 3 days and not doing anything on Thu before
    leaving apart from packing and stuff. Sorry!