Upon our arrival in Bengaluru, we were met at the Bengaluru (BLR) airport by Raj, the driver from the company that my friend was doing business with. He had been sent by his employer to pick us up and I didn’t envy his task since it was about 5:00 AM when he met us. However, if you consider that the airport is about 40 KM (24 miles) from Koramangala, our destination suburb in Bengaluru, and it takes about one hour travel time, you knew Raj had been up very early.
Raj was driving a Toyota Innova, similar to a Toyota Highlander, which is a vehicle that Toyota doesn’t sell in the USA. The seating was spacious and, because of my height, my companions allowed me to sit in the front seat. So, I had a great view after our arrival in Bengaluru as we traveled the expressway and entered the city.
I quickly decided that sitting in the front may not always be the best option for a Western traveler in India. You get to see everything. EVERYTHING! And, believe me, if this is your first visit to India and your first experience ridding in a car – you probably don’t want to see everything.
Red lights and stop signs are considered as mere suggestions. Cows, horses, pigs and innumerable dogs are everywhere and they don’t observe the rules of the road.
But, then again, neither do most drivers. There is nothing more likely to make your heart race than to be traveling at top speed in the fast lane and to see the headlights – if they are on – coming right at you in your lane and you recognize a 10 wheel truck bearing down on you for a certain head on collision! No, I’m not kidding. This is a very common occurrence.
I should also let you know that the side rear-view mirrors of most cars are either folded in or just dangling by a few wires from the side of the car. And the interior rear-view mirror? Well, that’s usually not much help since most drivers use the back window ledge to store all of their valuables – including young children and pets who tend to sleep there.
And, if the child or family dog is not sleeping there, then the image of the driver’s favorite Guru or divinity is frequently painted on the rear windshield to further obscure the driver’s vision.
Here is a YouTube video that will show you what I’m talking about.
Let me jump ahead a few years after our arrival in Bengaluru and tell you that I have purchased a car, Tata Zest 2015, in India and I also drive here.
When asked by foreigners how I can do it, I usually reply, “I drive the way Indians drive: I floor the accelerator, hit the horn, and close my eyes.”
Mercifully, after about an hour, we arrived at our hotel in Koramangala.