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Not Exactly Driving Miss Daisy………

March 4, 2009

You might remember the 1989 film in which Morgan Freeman plays a driver for an old stubborn Jewish woman in Atlanta. It takes a long time for the woman to be convinced that having a driver is a good thing and there are several scenes where they are shown slowly driving down unattended roads with few distractions. Ha. My riding in the car experience is not exactly “Driving Miss Daisy”.

Driving (or in my case “riding”) in Delhi is a unique experience. There is always a lot to see. It is never, ever boring. The first thing I noticed was the noise. It is VERY noisy. People honk their horns constantly. It means “move over, I am behind you and want to pass” or “hey, I was here first” or “it’s been too quiet for the last 5 seconds, I think I will honk my horn.” Some of the trucks even have signs on the back that say “honk, please”. This lets them know you are there. Even though it is a pretty good bet that someone is there – apparently, it’s good for them to know it’s you. There are some billboard signs that say “if you love Peace, don’t honk.”

The one thing I have not seen yet is road rage. People just seem to accept that it is crowded. Right of way is earned by the car that inches the furthest ahead. There are lines in the road – but I am not sure why. We have counted up to 7 vehicles across on a two-lane road. No, that is not really a great idea. Bikes, scooters, motorcycles, carts, tractors, pedestrians, cars, trucks, and buses all share the same roads. Sometimes there are beggars and animals in the middle of the road too – just to keep it interesting.


This is an auto rickshaw. It has a motor and three wheels. They have horns and certainly are not afraid to use them. They are smaller than a car but slightly more substantial than a motorcycle – so they are more nimble than the cars. They weave and bob through traffic with the best of them. I have counted up to 10 people in one of these – it’s not uncommon and no, I am not kidding.


More than one person can ride on a bike.


This is a rickshaw powered the old-fashioned way – with hard work. My Dad would say that it builds character. But, I do not hope to grow up to be a rickshaw driver. Many of them are barefoot.


Usually more than one person is riding in them. And it’s not necessarily that I am a horrible photographer – but it is often very hazy here. Okay, maybe the slightly blurry part was operator error.


Delhi is expanding its metro transportation system – so there is a lot of construction.


Your car will be side-swiped at some point. At least once. So far, we have had three traffic incidents. I consider it preparation for having teenaged drivers.


There are animals everywhere. Some of them are working – some are just wandering. This guy needs a hug.


This guy is delivering eggs somewhere. Did you know that eggs do not have to be refrigerated? Don’t worry – we still keep ours in the fridge. But they don’t have to be. I am just not willing to risk it. Hmmm.


Motorcycles can transport entire families.


Just maybe a scarf should not be worn on a motorcycle. But that is the way it is done here. Yes, this always makes me nervous.


Besides the poverty – this is one of the things that is the hardest for Western women to understand. Yes, you are seeing that right – she does not have a helmet on, her scarf is draping, and she is sitting side-saddled. And no, she is not holding on to him.


Indians seem to make the most of everything. A lot of people can fit in one car. I am always surprised when I see these cars so full of people and I always have to peek in. I never see children fighting over who is touching whom or parents drawing imaginary lines in the seat. I would love to know how they make that work.


Sometimes  people will drive the wrong way down the road.


Sometimes trucks are overloaded. Would you like to buy a sweater?


Sometimes people just hitch a ride. Going my way?


Sometimes people walk down the side of the road with bundles of sticks on their heads.


Sometimes it’s baskets.

This is just a little teaser of all the things you can see while driving in India. I will share more later – but right now, I think your boss, wife, and/or kids might be calling. 😎 I know mine are!

10 Comments leave one →
  1. March 15, 2009 11:50 pm

    wow, feel like I’m looking out that car window right there with you…good eye for the interesting…
    I especially like the photo with the woman riding side straddle. it reminded me of old movies, like westerns, where they show that women in the US too were not allowed to ride horses “like men.” I think Rose alluded to it in “Titanic” when she told Jack that she wanted to be taught how to ‘ride like a man”

  2. liz permalink
    March 6, 2009 1:38 pm

    Great photo-journalism Ellen.

  3. March 5, 2009 3:40 pm

    Oh, just reading about the honking made me cringe! That’s a huge peeve of mine. I’ve in fact ridden a motorcycle side-saddle, and it’s not that easy at all.

  4. March 5, 2009 9:54 am

    You are right, I don’t remember eggs being refrigerated in local grocery stores in India. Don’t know why.

    About the cars being so full and no imaginary lines, I guess since there are so many people, Indians are brought up to need very less personal space. Its just they way they are. You’ll see BFF boys/girls walking around very close to each other, sometimes hand on each others shoulders, and would probably think they are gay. But they are not, more often than not.

  5. March 5, 2009 9:38 am

    Badass – she is a lucky woman that you would move that for her! I hope she is feeling better.

    Deep – the markets here don’t even seem to keep the eggs in the fridge – I get it on the motorcycle but it doesn’t look safe. Add on a kid or two and it makes me a nervous wreck. And, you are right, it’s a shawl.

  6. March 5, 2009 8:57 am

    Eggs don’t need to be refrigerated? Now there’s something I didn’t know about India. Depends on what kind of eggs you get I guess.

    The side saddle thing is more out of necessity. It is impossible to remain…err…modest, if you’re not sitting side saddle on a motorcycle when wearing a saree.

    Scarf? Looks like a shawl to me?!

  7. March 5, 2009 7:34 am

    That overloaded truck looked like mine did the last time that I moved… and that was just for my wife’s clothing.

  8. March 5, 2009 5:35 am

    Tottsmom – it is amazing. I need to do some research on the eggs – it’s hard to believe but apparently true

    Christy – I am not going to write anymore if you don’t promise to at least consider coming to visit! hee hee

  9. Christy y. permalink
    March 5, 2009 1:21 am

    Ellen! I just love your posts! I love learning about other cultures.. and I feel like I’m right there with you, except I’m here in the comfort of my home:p I don’t need to visit India anymore.. I’m seeing places through your eyes (or camera)!

  10. Tottsmom permalink
    March 5, 2009 12:51 am

    LOVE the pictures! I get the no touching in public thing, but come on, Not holding on to the driver of a motorcycle? These women are amazing! I would probably fall off on the first turn, especially with the type of driving you have described. Oh, and thanks for the info on the eggs. I have been known to leave them out of the fidge overnight and always felt guilty about serving them the next morning. Notice I said I felt guilt, but it did not stop me.

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