Every country has its own little idiosyncrasies on the streets that make it special. Differences with the people, with the infrastructure of the roads, and with fun things like our modes of transportation.
One of my favourite countries in the world is Morocco. I’ve only been there three times but it always seems that 1/16 of the transportation there is still handled by animals (okay, maybe that number is actually lower but it’s a tremendous % when compared to other countries). In Morocco, lower-income families use a horse and buggy to get around town, tourists use them as taxis and shop keepers use them for local deliveries. The last time I was there was with my daughter for 10 days over the whole of the Christmas and New Year’s holiday 2009/2010. We stayed a few blocks away from a business that sold cement and rock and other goods for construction and it was amazing to watch the procession of ‘staff’ mules and carts continually in queue to transport their products around town. It was quite cool.
But not every country uses horses, mules or bullocks to help move from point A to point B. When I was in high school back in southern California there was no livestock but I can vividly remember the boys loving the horsepower of their cars and trucks more than…well, probably more than girls. They added super aerodynamic spoilers to the rears of them, beefed up or slimmed down the wheels and tires, gave them blingy paint jobs and customised the muffler so their vehicles made insanely large amounts of noise.
I’ve never seen that passion for cars or trucks anywhere else I’ve visited. Until I came to India! And the trend doesn’t end with high school boys. Everyone seems very much into pimping their ride. I’ve never sat in a vehicle that didn’t have at least one statue of a beloved God on the dashboard, a bit of bling hanging from the rear view mirror or some fun message of love or inspiration applied to the rear window. From women with theirs mopeds and cars or men with theirs’ to India’s most famous lovers of art and fauna and BLING, the truck driver! Yeah, who’da guessed? But I promise you, in the six months I have lived here I have only seen a handful of ‘naked’ trucks, mainly military vehicles.
I did a bit of investigating into the trucker scene and was told something quite surprising. My source first told to me in the local language here, but roughly translated it goes something like this: “my truck is my first wife and the woman I marry is my second wife” which I thought was quite interesting. Like in other countries, truckers are away from home for weeks or even months at a time. They spend more time with their first wife than their second wife. They like to pamper their first wife – as Indian men are so good at doing. They dress her up real pretty, they keep her healthy and they buy her fresh flowers and trinkets to adorn and make her happy. I’ve literally seen trucks painted from bonnet to boot with exotic designs, strewn with flowers across the front grill or hanging from the mirrors, decked out with statues of Indian Gods to protect and watch over them, etc. Some men even lovingly brand their first wife with the name of their children or second wife…not sure how the first wife feels about this but I quite like it! Truckers are macho men with a bit of flair that I appreciate.
Now, the fun doesn’t end with the bling! I love it when I end up next to a horse and buggy or a rickshaw full of cute school kids at a stoplight. No day is ever boring in Bangalore. Some days I’m shocked as hell at what I see but it’s always an adventure. I can’t get my head around things like young men dangling from buses that are traveling at 50 kilometres per hour, holding on with their arms wrapped around the bars on the windows – OUTSIDE of the bus! I’m sorry but if that were me I would just wait for the next bus. How can they do that? It looks crazy to me. I’ve seen guys while travelling on the motorway who stand or sit in an open bus door as they travel down the road at high speeds. Once I saw a funeral vehicle pass by blaring music that boasted what to me looked like a go-go pole atop a podium constructed at the rear of the vehicle where 2 guys were dancing and throwing flowers out to people they passed, which I was told was something common amongst a segment of certain lower castes. I loved their spirit for celebrating someone’s life with joy and merriment instead of only sombre prayer but hanging outside a moving funeral truck is unsafe as hell.
Here in India the saying “the more the merrier” rings true because I’ve seen more people packed into a rickshaw, a car or truck and sadly even on motorbikes than is certainly safe. At times there are so many people jam-packed together that I it reminds me a bit of a Mini Cooper at the circus that miraculously expels a dozen big clowns even though the car looks like it should only hold four of them. Any given day I spot mopeds with three grown men or a family of four or five, rickshaws with eight or nine school kids snuggled into it, busses with guys hanging off them, trains with people on top of them (okay, I don’t see this in Bangalore but up north it’s apparently an everyday occurrence) and trucks with men sitting precariously atop loads of potatoes or boxes of computer equipment who appear as though they could be thrown out at any given minute by just one pothole. I worry about these guys.
I really can’t wait to buy a cool little car of my own to pimp out after I obtain my Indian driver’s license and end this purely voyeuristic period in my life. What fun it will be to actually start being a part of the traffic and mayhem in Bangalore instead of simply a spectator!