The Art of Driving in Bangalore

I’ve developed a deep affection for driving in Bangalore. It’s nothing less than a chaotic, orderless game of Chicken, but there’s something paradoxically peaceful about it. Perhaps it’s my host mom’s calm demeanor as she weaves her tiny, bright red Suzuki between caravans, autos, cows, packed busses, semi trucks, and men, women and children equipped with nothing more than an outstretched arm. Perhaps it’s the lack of road rage, despite the utter madness. But most likely, it’s the more straightforward fact that the hyper-awareness required to maneuver the streets of Bangalore actually seems a bit safer than mindlessly following traffic rules and expecting everyone around you to do the same.

You'll find just about anything in the streets of Bangalore besides rule of law, yet there's something peaceful, even artful, about driving in India.

You’ll find just about anything in the streets of Bangalore besides rule of law, yet there’s something peaceful, even artful, about driving without boundaries.

To drive and survive in Bangalore is to be both skilled and fearless. It’s honestly an art, as mesmerizing as Van Gogh’s Sunflowers on a cool, spring day. Though an anger-filled, startling nuisance in the States, the car horn is a source of consolation in Bangalore. Instead of “come on, you idiot!” it becomes” “watch out, friend!”, and instead of shrinking shamefully at its use, one grows wary of the driver who remains horn-shy amongst such disarray.

Ally absolutely loves it. She’s a young girl on the autism spectrum, my host sister, and the most amazing kid I’ve ever met. Her absolute thrill over near-death experiences in the family automobile is both terrifying and heartening… “Up-down papa, up-down!” she yells as we dodge over-ambitious two-wheelers, hop over stray speed bumps and dip into meteor-sized potholes. Makes you wonder whether or not it’s really worth it to worry so much about that which remains completely out of your control.

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About India Solomon

India is a junior with a major in Public Policy focused on Comparative Urban Policy and Sustainable Development and a minor in Crime and Justice. She is interested in pursuing a career in international policymaking geared towards successful education campaigns and culturally sensitive economic development. India will be spending four weeks in Bangalore volunteering with Bubbles Centre for Autism, a specialized school for children on the Autism spectrum that takes an individualized approach to treatment with focuses on building self-esteem and social skills. India's final project will explore how grassroots alternatives to treatment and education are improving the future prospects for children with Autism attending this school.

3 thoughts on “The Art of Driving in Bangalore

  1. I have heard India has that style of driving! There’s beauty in the chaos, in that delicate dance. It’s amazing how it (usually) works out for everyone! The comment about mindlessly following traffic rules is interesting, because there are places in the US where the city removed all the lights and stop signs and people just have to figure it out. The accident rate goes down because people start paying more attention to what’s going on around them.

  2. Hi India! I love how being exposed to everyday life in other places helps us examine things we don’t question at home. Things that are so normal and generally accepted to us (like driving) take on a new sense of adventure in lands far away. When you return, you may never see driving in the US quite the same, either.

    I love this Bill Bryson quote, “I can’t think of anything that excited a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old again. You can’t read anything. You have only the most rudimentary sense of how things work. You can’t even reliably cross a street without endangering your life. Your whole existence become a series of interesting guesses.” I do not think you were or are ignorant of life in India. However, I can really relate to your reaction to driving and I think this post captures the childlike wonder everyday life inspires in unfamiliar places.

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