Animal rights

Driving in India may seem somewhat chaotic to visitors from northern Europe including the UK. It might seem less so to visitors from the southern parts of Europe or from Egypt. However, there is some order in the apparent mayhem that can often be observed on Indian roads.

One unwritten rule is that it is advisable to give way to something bigger than you. If you are driving a car, it is best to yield to a lorry or a bus. If a cow or bullock or even an elephant wanders into your path, it is best to avoid it. If you collide with a large beast, your vehicle might suffer greater injury than the beast. Best to give the creature the right of way.

If you should happen to be an autorickshaw (‘tuk tuk’) driver, you are likely to have superbly fast reflexes, the courage of a lion, and nerves of steel. Drivers of these vehicles take risks on the road that sometimes seem suicidal, but overehelmingly they know what they are doing.

One autorickshaw driver in Bangalore once told me that he had been a truck driver before taking up his present occupation. He said that to drive an autorickshaw it was necessary to employ all of the senses. He said that his whole body had to be fully aware of what is going on around him.

However, even the skilfully adventurous autorickshaw drivers will give way to, or avoid cattle in the street. This is not because they hold the cow to be sacred nor because they are believers in animal rights, but because they have a sensible regard for self-preservation.

Overload

“Incredible India” is a tourist promotion slogan. And, it is totally justifiable.

The truck in my picture is not unique. We saw many similarly loaded trucks on a short journey through northern Karnataka, and on many other road trips.

India is not simply incredible because of sights such as overloaded trucks, the wealth of colour, bustle, fantastic food, and the Taj Mahal. It is incredible because of its unending variety and generally very friendly people. Rich in history, the country has a very vibrant present.

Please note that I write this not as a promoter of tourism, but as a lover of a great country that survives despite itself.