Thursday, January 10, 2013

Rookie Mistakes - 2

Having experienced Kochi on foot and thanking God that I have lived to regret it, last week
I decided to listen to Dad and quietly take the car when we decided to go shopping.
Now by 'taking the car', I do not mean driving it myself, although the Government of India has foolishly granted me a permit to do so for the past decade or so. I meant assigning Dad or he-of-infinite-patience-when-it-comes-to-his-daughter the chauffeur duties for the day while mum and self (and brats in tow) swan in and out of shops. We left punctually at the designated hour (i.e. exactly half an hour after it was agreed we would leave), and this time when Dad headed towards to car park he found me right along with him, matching stride for stride. Right. so far so good. As we settle ourselves into the car, I see dad quickly reverse out of the car park after strapping himself in. "whoa! Hang on Dad!!" I say - "I haven't strapped myself in - and neither have the kids!" Dad, for the nth time in this very brief trip looks at me like I'm a raving loon, visibly composes himself before answering, calmly, "It's not compulsory for the passengers to wear seat belts here. And the back seats don't have any seat belts."
I look around incredulously at the back. The seats are bereft of any anchoring devices. The kids are grinning away bouncing about like helium-filled balloons, rejoicing at the feeling of not being tethered down. As we continue backing out of the driveway - this time in a vehicle rather than on foot, I feel no safer and hang on gingerly to the door handle.
No sooner have we emerged out of the apartment complex (after what I though was far too much aggressive horn-tooting by dad), we nearly ram into an SUV which, from what I could gather thought we were involved in a fun game of Chicken. I roll down my window to give the guy a sound talking to - only to realise I was talking to thin air - Chicken man was continuing his dangerous trip down to road determined to visit the A & E by the end of the hour.
Dad meanwhile continued down to road, unaffected by our brush with death, merrily leaning away on the horn - apparently this was how vehicles communicated with each other here - a short 'parp' to denote mild annoyance at how you're driving to a longer 'paaaaaaarrrp' to denote - 'really now, you're being a twat' to a staccato burst of 'pip-paarp-pap-parp' to denote 'watch out! I'm a huge truck with no rearview mirrors about to burst forth from a blind turn at break-neck speed' to a myriad of other complex signals.
I seem to have learnt driving from a totally different rulebook because the left indicator here somehow communicated to two-wheelers behind you that this was the time to overtake the vehicle from the left and a right indicator - well, I don't know what it meant because it seemed to have no effect on the surrounding traffic.
My favourites are the roundabouts- manned by a traffic constable. Where if you choose to go clockwise when you want to turn right, The constable looks at you in askance like you didn't know what you were doing. It's obvious to anyone with half as much brains as the rotund constable that the shortest route in a roundabout if you wanted to go right was, of course anti-clockwise. And that is what one is expected to do. None of this new fangled nonsense about uni-directional traffic for our intrepid Kochi Konstable.
I now realise why almost all vehicles in India have an image of God hanging from the rear view mirror or firmly pasted to the dashboard (including Dad's car which now incidentally has permanent imprints left by my fingertips on the dashboard) - after all one never knows if one is ever going to ever return to your loved ones once you go out into the streets (on foot or by car) of Kochi. 

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