Driving in Hyderabad is one of the most exasperating or exhilarating experiences – depending on how you look at it. I grew up driving Ambassadors, Fiats and Marutis and my favorite Kawasaki KB 100 RTZ (Are-Tee-Zed) on these roads. You leave me anywhere in the older part of Hyderabad (the pre-Hitec City area) and I can find my way back home. Every visit to India, there’s one thing I really really look forward to – driving on these roads.
Of course, the traffic in the 80s and 90s was very different from what it is now. The number of vehicles has gone up multifold; and drivers are forgetting the one thing they need to bring along when they hit the road – their brains. But hey, this is Hyderabad – sab chalta mian!
Here are a few observations that should help NRIs willing to take the plunge:
The Center Line
Yes there is a dotted line separating lanes. And drivers are absolutely aware of the line. Car drivers make sure they follow that line – right down the center. In fact if the car were to split in two (a la Sholay motorcycle) the right and left parts of the car would drive along the line in perfect symmetry.
The Stop Light
When the first rays of sun hit this beautiful planet, the birds start chirping – giving us dumb humans audible indication to wake up. Similarly when the stop light turns green, the entire traffic erupts in a medley of honking – the autorickshaws, the cars, the two wheelers. In other words, you can fall asleep at a stop light and you WILL be woken up.
The Road Crosser
Ah yes – that wonderful person that comes in all ages, hues and sizes. They can come in groups too. They look at your car – speeding at 40+ mph, raise their arm shoulder height parallel to the ground and open up their palm – the global hand gesture for stop. Only this comes with the nonchalant authority of a Hyderabadi. He doesn’t expect you to stop. He doesn’t stop if you don’t stop. You both are constantly moving in a well choreographed dance. Nobody gets hurt, nobody gets annoyed – except if he’s with a girl. Then his machismo surfaces and he yells a “Hoi” at you!
Your Peripheral Vision
I wore glasses when I lived in India. Had regular eye exams. But was never tested for peripheral vision. Never needed it. Hyderabadi drivers develop excellent perimetric senses. You never know from which side of your car the preteen dude will weave in – and out in a second.
The Natural Speed Bumps
The traffic races on that one stretch of road without speed bumps (called speed breakers here). And suddenly you see them – black on black, without the black and white markings to indicate there’s a breaker coming. Those natural speed breakers languidly crossing the road. But they do one thing better than humans don’t – they form a nice line/queue while crossing the road. Buffalos rock!
The Fluid State
Definition of Fluid:
Allow me to explain. If there is a gap – as in empty space – in the traffic, all vehicles rush to fill it. The fastest gets there first, and the vacuum left by him will be taken up by the fastest foot behind him, and so on. So the traffic is constantly moving, gravitating forward. Another physical science word comes to mind – Flux
Remember Mel Gibson’s final words in Braveheart? Let’s say you are in a massive rush to get to your destination. You can weave your way in and out, pass vehicles from left and right, recklessly enter oncoming lanes and cut in, and honk the living daylights out of every vehicle on the road. No blue lights chasing you, nobody calling 911 to report you. This is what ‘FREEEDOMMMM’ feels like on the road.