India, being a land of spirituality, was on Carol’s bucket list.  Since we had had such a great experience with Grand Circle Travel when we went to Antarctica, we were willing to try their small group partner, Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT).  I was a little reluctant about going to India, thinking that the crowdedness, poverty, dirtiness, heat & humidity would make for an unenjoyable trip.  I was proven wrong.  Going during some of the cooler months, heat and humidity were not an issue; and yes, crowdedness, noise and poverty are everywhere, but when you are blessed with such a cheerful, knowledgeable guide as Seema Singh and joined partway through the journey by Sejal Khanna from the OAT office, one couldn’t ask for more.  OAT is all about learning and discovery, and Seema filled every day with new experiences, fun times, and plenty of warm memories.  Her smile lights up her every surrounding, she has a patient contagious sense of humor, and helped make the 16 of us travelers into a family during the trip.  After our return home, we had a long questionnaire to fill out, and when asked, “What was the best part of the trip?”, without hesitation, the answer was Seema.

    Arriving in New Delhi, we were immediately exposed to the overpopulation and the traffic and the noise.  One guide told us that India has three religions: Hindu, football (soccer), and honking. Streets do have lane markers, but they are just a suggestion, or maybe for decoration.

    In our welcome folder, we received The Highway Code of India.  We quickly learned why.

Article I.  The assumption of immortality is required of all road users.

Article II:  Indian traffic, like Indian society, is structured on a strict caste system.  The following precedence must be accorded at all times.  In descending order, give way to: cows, elephants, camels, buffalo, pigs, goats, dogs, heavy trucks, buses, official cars, pedal rickshaws, private cars, motorcycles, scooters, auto-rickshaws, handcarts, and pedestrians.

Article III: All wheeled vehicles shall be driven in accordance with the maxim: to slow is to falter; to brake is to fail; to stop is defeat.  This is the Indian drivers’s mantra.

Article IV:  Use of horn (also known as the sonic fender or the language of the road) Cars: short blasts (urgent) indicate supremacy, i.e. in clearing dogs, rickshaws and pedestrians from path. Long blasts (desperate) denote supplication, i.e. to oncoming trucks, “I am going too fast to stop, so unless you slow down, we shall both die.” In extreme cases, this may be accompanies by flashing of headlights (frantic). Single blast (casual) means: “I have seen someone out of India’s 1 billion whom I recognize,” “There is a bird in the road which at this speed could go through my windscreen,” or “I have not blown my horn for several minutes.”  Trucks and buses: All horn signals have the same meaning: “I have an all-up weight of approximately  12.5 tons and have no intention of stopping, even if I could.”  This signal may be emphasized by the use of headlamps.

Article V: All maneuvers, use of horn and evasive actions shall be left until the last possible moment.

Article VI:  In the absence of seat belts (which there is), car occupants shall wear garlands of marigolds.  These should be kept fastened at all times.

Article VII:  Rights of way.  Traffic entering a road from the left has priority.  So does traffic from the right, and also traffic in the middle.  Lane Discipline:  All Indian traffic at all times and irrespective of direction of travel shall occupy the centre of the road.

Article VIII: Traffic Management: It’s a jungle out there.  Apparent traffic islands in the middle of crossroads have no traffic management function.  Any other impression should be ignored.

Article IX: Overtaking is mandatory.  Every moving vehicle is required to overtake every other moving vehicle, irrespective of whether it has just overtaken you.  Overtaking should only be undertaken in suitable conditions, such as in the face of oncoming traffic, on blind bends at junctions, and in the middle of villages/city centers.  No more than two inches should be allowed between your vehicle and the one you are passing - one inch in the case of bicycles or pedestrians.

Article X:  Nirvana may be obtained through the head-on crash.

Article XI:  Reversing.  What’s this?  Not many drivers in India like to use this gear.  It’s against their driver’s mantra.

Article XII: The 10th incarnation of God  was an articulated tanker.

Traffic: See for yourself.

India Home Page 
Delhi, Old & New
Jaipur, Pink City
Overland drive to,  Ranthambore Tiger Park, and “Lodge in the Forest”
Village & School Visit & OAT camp
Potter, Step Well, Taj Mahal
Agra Fort, Jaypee Palace, Train to Jhansi
Varanasi, the city on the Ganges River
Completely Finished