Keeping on the safe side

IT IS ALWAYS WISE to ward off the Evil Eye. The Turks use characteristic amulets known as ‘nazar’. They are usually flat and almost circular with a design that resembles a stylised eye. This is now to seen on the homes of many people with no connection with Turkey. The Arabs and some Jewish people use an amulet, the ‘hamsa’, depicting a hand with five outstretched digits, to protect against the malevolent effects of the Evil Eye.

During road trips in India, I have often seen lorries (trucks) and other vehicles with thick, black, plaited tassels attached on the left and right sides of the driver’s cab. These things fly out sideways as the vehicles speed along.

One of our driver’s, the highly educated and informative Raheem, explained that these tassels are nazars. The drivers attach them to their vehicles to ward off the Evil Eye – an especially wise precaution on many roads in India.

During a recent (December 2022) visit to Panjim in Goa, my wife bought a couple of scarves from a female street vendor. The seller was so happy that my wife had bought from her that she immediately attached a bracelet on my ‘other half’s’ right wrist. The bracelet has a Turkish style Eye nazar and is made of black beads, which might well be designed also to protect against the Evil Eye.

Even more recently, I noticed that an autorickshaw, which we had hired in Bangalore, was adorned with two hefty black tassels just like those seen on lorries. I was struck by these because on the whole autorickshaws in the city do not have them.

I have one minor concern about vehicles whose drivers have attached things to ward off the Evil Eye. That is, I wonder whether the knowledge that their vehicles are equipped with such protection might drive more recklessly than those who do not put any faith in objects that might possibly have a protective value.

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.


“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.