top of page
  • mbwatts

Pondicherry - drive to survive

A couple of NHSontheRun regular readers, not too long ago, completed the Indian TukTuk rally. Driving from Kerala in the south, up to the north of India. Steering a TukTuk successfully through both the countryside and cities. I congratulated them at the time, but no more.

They are enthusiasts. As soon as they heard we were coming to India they pretty much insisted that we hire a scooter or TukTuk. You will love it, we were told. I even went as far as getting my international driving licence so that I could do just that.

What was I thinking? What man of steel must he be?

Previously, I had thought of him as a talented but mortal being. However, on any driving scale he must simply be Lewis Hamilton to my Mr Toad. Having been here nearly three weeks, I am simply in awe. Despite my obvious reservations, I do think that there is a significant amount that we can learn from the driving here.

Try as I might I haven't managed to get footage that remotely portrays the pant soiling terror of this experience. But clearly the driving is a metaphor for life in general here.

Picture the following early morning scene. It lasted a full 15 seconds.

People hurrying into town. A powerful Royal Enfield motorbike emerges at speed from the side turning, in front of our TukTuk. What would have been a touching father and son scene. The eight year old precious cargo holds on by his knees, he's reading. I get a glimpse of a Pokémon on the page. Dad doesn't look at the traffic in the lane he is joining. He expects and is allowed to join. His head doesn't turn to look. Not at all. His bike has no rear view mirror. Ahead of him a yellow bus is already overtaking on the wrong side of the road. Undeterred Dad swerves out and roars past the bus. We follow. The oncoming traffic parts to allow us all safe passage. We watch the bike power away. We draw along side a moped with suspension flat to the ground. Six people aboard. Dad driving, three boys behind in ascending height order, and finally mum in full Purdah holding a tiny baby. They swing out directly into our path and our driver avoids the collision, using his swerve as the basis for a skilful undertake. Our drivers phone rings, he shouts a greeting to the fellow TukTuk driver he's undertaking, and simultaneously avoids a cow whilst answering his phone, gripping it between ear and shoulder. Technically we are all just 15 seconds older, but any remaining dark hair of mine has silvered in that brief moment.

The whole experience is knuckle blanching.

The system depends on three factors, it seems to me. An unwritten agreement that anyone joining or changing lanes will be allowed to do so. Secondly, that anyone who is doing anything that clearly will result in a collision will be helped by communal action of all the surrounding traffic to survive. And most importantly, that there is absolutely no ego, aggression or ill will involved in the act of driving. In a way this is quite uplifting.

And here's my point. We are all in a hurry, let's all get there as quickly as we possibly can by working together. In India I believe they retain this communal desire to get ahead. In driving, but also crucially in education and business. The most populous nation on earth hurtling into the future, screeching round every corner, and smashing through every cross roads on its way from the slums of Mumbai on a journey to the stars.

Recent Posts

See All

1 Comment

David Price
David Price
Feb 21

Absolutely spot on. I’ve often said that when India harnesses that spirit and gets its shit together, they will knock China into a cocked hat.

Glad you’re enjoying the roads. I expect that IDP to get an outing. X

Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page