Thursday, April 18, 2013

Some notes on traffic, accidents and transportation in North India

Traffic in North India is not very different from traffic in the South. But there were subtle differences.

I had already mentioned about two accidents, one on the day we were driving to Hansi, Haryana from Delhi and the other in Hansi. The first involved the Toyota Innova we were travelling. On one of the Highways just outside of Delhi a traffic cop stopped us. As the driver was slowing down I knew he had something on his mind. As the cop was being mislead that the vehicle was going to stop the driver suddenly stepped on the pedal and sped away. The cop was just able to tap the vehicle with his lathi. I was wondering if there was a chase ensuing. A short while later the same vehilce scraped against a small pick-up truck. The sound was so loud I thought damage was done. Fortunately there was only a small scratch but the rear bumper on the left side seemed disconnected from the body. The left rear-view mirror though knocked and folded-closed from the impact also only had a minor scratch. However the best part was that the driver of our car didn't even step outside to inspect the damage. He continued to drive on. On enquiry I found that the Innova we were driving was also his. Strange and unbelievable.

The other accident took place in Hansi when a two wheeler hit ours and as if nothing happened the two parties just went about their ways. I was dumbfounded. I have been in accidents in Chennai and I know the aftermaths of such events.

Share autos are interesting. They have an additional seat at the rear for rear-facing passengers. Certainly not safe and for those who have problems when seated in moving vehicles going in the opposite direction they are facing. I know one friend who just cannot sit that way.

One sad observation is that cycle richshaws are very much in vogue up North with more of them being used near train and bus stations. In Chennai they are almost extinct and their usage in Delhi and Haryana seemed odd and a little disturbing too. I am happy I didn't see any hand-drawn ones. I believe they contunue to be used in Calcutta.

P.S - On the way to Hisar I saw two white limousines parked in an open area. I believe marriages these days use them.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


My friend Rajeev Ramanujan used to tell me that if one wanted to celebrate Holi and see its true colours, one had to be in the North and was he right about it.

My cousin Latha with whom I was speaking on the 24'th of March asks me, "Do you know what is on the 27'th of this month?" and when I am blinking stars she yells, "Holi". From Delhi to Hansi, Haryana it is a 3 hour ride (4 max if the traffic is bad and it is) and we were surprised to find young kids throwing water-bags and packets at moving vehicles who had their windows down. These kids had already begun celebrating.

And if you thought Holi was only celebrated outdoors you are dead wrong. Early morning on the 27'th I am doused in colour powders, red and pink inside the home. I repeat, "inside the home". For Mother, it was a rude shock, with marble floors covered in pink and red colours. Up North, this is considered absolutely normal. Then comes pouring of freezing cold water. I would have certainly enjoyed if the water was tepid but freezing cold water was literally sending shivers down the spine. To my surprise my brother-in-law was throwing color powder on my cousin in the Kitchen. I never expected that.

We rush out and there is colour mayhem outside, with kids using buckets, water guns and pumps. I was warned not to take my camera and cellphone outside and particularly not to take any pics. I was also warned to stay away from colours (these are an oily type) that take much longer to wash away from one's skin. I still managed to snap some quick ones. Here they are.

Ladies are spared but passers by, particularly guys on bikes aren't. Best part, you don't even need to know your victim to douse him in colours. I was surprised when some teeny thing from next doors suddenly walked in and started applying color on my face greeting me with a "Happy Holi" and she was expecting me to do the same which I had to oblige. Such things are unheard of, down south.

I was only wondering what a beautiful festival it was for kids considering the brotherhood, camaraderie and good will it promoted among them during their growing-up years. Foreigners who visit North India during the festival indulge and have a field day while in the South, there is hardly any real Holi and it remains confined to small groups.

A few days after Holi, at Rajguru market in Hisar (yes these are the common names, Rajguru was one of the three to have been martyred along with Baghath Singh and Sukhdev) I could still see colours on people that hadn't washed away yet.