Horn Honking, Indian Drivers and Bangalore Traffic

I am from Los Angeles.  Trust me when I say I know traffic.  On top of that I have also traveled a bit and have seen traffic jams in many cities and countries around the world.  But I swear to you, I have never seen anything like the traffic in Bangalore.

Tonight I am sat on the terrace on the upper floor of a lovely restaurant and lounge on 100 Feet Road called “100 Feet” enjoying the amazing ambience of this fantastic Mediterranean hotspot, the smell of the incense lightly floating up into the air, the groovy chillout music playing softly, my perfectly prepared caipiroska … and the loud blast of HORNS every 2 seconds from the street below. haha.  And no one here seems to mind the noise.  Heck, even I don’t really seem to mind it after only 10 days here.  But the truth is that I have never been to city that embraced the sound of the horn quite like this one does — fully and with a fevered passion.

When I was here the first time for my interview I really thought that the driver who had collected me from the airport was bi-polar.  He had seemed like such a sweet guy in the airport terminal but then changed immediately into a really rude guy honking and honking and honking his horn at other drivers at — what to me — looked like nothing.   I assumed that behind the wheel he changed into Road Rage Man.  But like so many other things here in Bangalore, my idea of what is appropriate conduct or correct behavior was totally wrong.

Unlike L.A., where the horn is used as a basic tool for expressing “F** you” to a crappy driver, in Bangalore the horn is actually a safety tool 100% of the time.  And it appears that the Indians are very safety conscience because the toot toot beep beep that goes on here 24/7 is pretty insane — yet none of the locals know what I am talking about when I mention it.  Trucks have “BLOW HORN” messages painted on their backs to remind drivers to BE COURTEOUS and please honk!  Basically it goes like this: when you pass a car, you honk so they know you are coming.  When you see a car waiting to turn onto your road, you honk to say “ehhhh, stay there, I won’t stop for you” like my current driver does :-)  And since the concept of a 1-lane, 2-lane or 3-lane road does not exist, and cars just go wherever the hell they want to, the horn is used to alert the car on the right or the left that you are coming around or to get out of your way or any other fabulous number of reasons.

And VERY MUCH unlike Los Angeles, I have never once, not even for the slightest second, seen a single moment of frustration or road rage enter into traffic here.  What an amazing, beautiful thing to discover!

Ahhh but the delights of Bangalore traffic do not end with the autos!  The foot traffic is also pretty insane.  All my American friends will remember Frogger, the fun video game we used to drop quarter after quarter into at the arcade during junior high school in which you had to safely guide the cute little frog across various lanes of traffic without it being run over by a car or truck or motorbike.  Well, that is what I do each night when I venture out from the hotel to go for a drink or to take my laptop out on a dinner date.  If you look at the slide show photos you will see the road I “Frogger” across (yes, I just used that as a verb), taken from the center divider as I was half way across my journey waiting for the traffic to die down enough for me to … YES …. Frogger across.  I have to admit it is really pretty fun and definitely wakes me up, but a few well placed zebra crossings wouldn’t be a bad thing.  But this is India, and unfortunately no joy there!  But maybe someday.

Today was a pretty normal day but I was almost attacked by a giant ant that just appeared from nowhere on my desk! haha  Ok Ok, maybe not attacked, but it was so big that the thought of squashing it really grossed me out (see photo!).  And finally tomorrow I will sign the lease on our new apartment.  Tomorrow I also have the fun task of going to “register” with the Indian police as the final step of my visa process.  Hopefully by the weekend I will be out of the hotel and into our new home — and a legal permanent resident of India.

XOXO from Bangalore

PS. I have just been watching the live cricket game and I think I need to go see one live the next time RCB plays … but towards the end of the game because they can last 4, 5, 6 hours….

© Angela Carson, Angela’s Adventures in Bangalore blog and photos, 2011

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Angela Carson

I love to travel where they don’t speak English and to blog about everything under the sun.I’m a single engine airplane pilot, an 'Insider' for Condé Nast Traveller, a native of southern California and I’ve lived in Mexico, then Spain for 12 years, India for 3, China...and I now reside in Hong Kong.

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9 Comments on “Horn Honking, Indian Drivers and Bangalore Traffic

  1. Blow Horn!! love it… In UK people get shot for blowing their horn!
    As for the Ant yukkkkieieieei it is huge, if you squashed that honey you would have needed a shower! ooooooo not nice at all.:)
    Good luck with the signing of contract for house and the police station, just the thought is scary. Hope you get your bb tomorrow.
    Have a fun night 100 floors in the sky xxx

  2. YES. what u said is 100% true. I want to share my horrible experience at bangalore very recently. I had been to mysore to visit our client. I started from mysore early in the morning and reached bangalore @ 9 AM. Since my train was at 5 PM, i thought of going for shopping. An unexpected call has come from one of my bangalore client and to my surprise i come to know that my long outstanding payment is ready with him. He is located at Jigani which is 40 KM from Railway Station. I told him that I will finish shopping and come to him for picking my payment. He asked me to visit him first and asked me to go for shopping later. He was again and again reminding me that i have very short time. I got puzzled. 9 AM to 5 PM a short time? OK. i engaged a cab at 10 AM and proceeded towards my clients place. You believe me or not, I reached there at 1.30 PM. After collecting the payment, we rushed back at 2 PM. We skipped our lunch too. With a great difficulty we reached the station at 5.45 PM, by the time which i have missed my train and to my fate even there were no seats in buses too. Some how i managed to travel in next train with lot of inconvenience, due to summer traffic.

    Friends, i would like to say in Chennai or Hyderabad or Gurgaon or mumbai or in any other city, i dont think we will face such a bad experience which people in Bangalore are facing every day. Bangalore has a bright chance of creating a new Guinnes Record for ‘AVERAGE LOW VEHICLE SPEED IN THE WORLD’.

    • Ouch, your story is painful to read, haha. That had to SUCK. I hope it was the height of summer and monumentally hot out as well? I haven’t experienced anything like that yet and not looking forward to it happening either. Hope you’ve had better luck since then :-)

  3. Actually not a bad idea to avoid most of the accidents that occurs every day, but I would go crazy with all that noise. What happened to the poor ant? And it’s funny the way you refer to the way you cross the street, “frogger” style. hehe
    About the cricket, looks like it all started here :)

    • Hey Dani, man I miss you! Hope all is going great for you and Olga and wedding preparations!
      Yeah, the noise is insane and nonstop, drives me insane I swear it. And “frogger” comes from a game that was around long before you were born but do you know it? haha I used to take my 25 cent coins and hit the arcade and play Frogger with friends…I can even remember the sounds which is weird. Google it :-) xo

  4. Honk .. Honk.. Honk… And all that disappeared 6 months ago.. While the sound of horns fascinates you , the quiet time on the roads here in the US makes me feels good. How ironic! :) Life on Indian roads is no less than a game like you have mentioned. You do find lanes and zebra crossings. However their existence has deemed non existent due to their ill-use… As good as the disappearance of the dodo.. 😀

    Blessed are you to be a legal permanent resident of India , while I am nothing but a non-alien resident!! 😐

    • haha, I guess it’s easier to go your way then to mine here in India, going from peace and quiet to absolute noise pollution. An Indian woman who moved to the US to San Diego (where I’ve lived) said she finds it strange that she can walk through her neighbourhood for blocks and blocks and see no one. Not a soul. Like the end of days or something… :-)

  5. Hola.
    Just moved to Bangalore and on my first day crossing the streets here I had the exact same feeling of being the frog in Frogger. I had to send my co-workers a link to the online game so they knew what I was referring to. One of them replied saying that there is an extra difficulty here, in that you need to “share” the sidewalk with two-wheelers and other vehicles. I don’t know if I should laugh or cry. :)
    ¿Alguna recomendación de donde encontrar tortillas de maiz o platillos mexicanos? Sanchos fue bueno, pero creo que no supimos pedir.

    • Right? It’s exactly like FROGGER!! hehe

      Okay…por las tortillas y otros productos de mejico vete a la tienda Natures Basket en la calle MG Road (justo despues de Brigade y la estacion del metro — mano izquierda). Tienen de todo :) Buena suetre!! -angela

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