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Chennai Journal
Sunday, October 16, 2005
 
Getting Around Town



Driving anywhere in India, but particularly in big cities like Madras and Mumbai, is definitely a spectator sport. When we were in Mumbai, we got around in old Fiat taxis (shown under emergency repair to the left---you can also see that the driver took this as an opportunity for a siesta) that are the Mumbai equivalent of an autorickshaw.

Although I have an international driver's license, and can apply to get an Indian driving permit, the choreography of the roads is more than I care to tackle--especially considering the British practice here of driving on the right-- and I'll probably limit my time behind the wheel to test drives of our vehicles on the track. Many foreigners do drive, but our international service policy discourages it for safety reasons. A few months ago, the U.S. commercial attache was practically killed doing so---ironically on his very last night in Madras--and spent a few months in a hospital in Singapore.

My inclination was further confirmed by what the law of averages dictates is an almost inevitable occurrence here--an accident. Yesterday Marty and I were in a fender bender with a big blue tourist bus. The bus tried to cut our driver Antony off as he was driving on Mount Road, a main thoroughfare here. An argument ensued between Antony and the bus driver, who of course proclaimed innocence. Antony and a nearby street cop showed the bus driver the damage (blue streaks from the bus along the rear door, the trim above the wheel sheared off, etc.) which could not have occurred if he hadn't hit us. Another cop arrived, we called the local government affairs person at the plant for what to do, and more heated conversation in Tamil ensued (out of which I could only pick up words like "you" and one that could only mean "stupid." ). All of this took about an hour and a half, but on the counsel of our government affairs person, we ultimately we drove away, Antony in a considerably more sour mood than he usually is anyway. Fortunately there was no other body damage and no injuries to any of us. It does, however, prove the #1 rule of the road here---stay clear of anything bigger than you.




Comments:
Good fun reading your travel tales. Especially the notes on wine was very interesting for me.

I'm seriously thinking of starting a Chennai wine club as this is one place where you wont get any good wine, but there are some genuine enthusiasts.

thanks
Mathew.
 
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