November 6 2008

So much for diets. Now here’s the other half of my get healthy program


Nice, huh. Its been sitting in my living room for the last six days, a sight to inspire me to do something I haven’t cared for before – exercise. I haven’t actually used it yet, but it looks good. For Rs. 8,700 it should. And what to speak if I begin to use it!

Now, one might ask, why bother spending so much on a bike that doesn’t go anywhere? Surely it would be more healthy and wise to just get out on a real bike, buzz around Mayapur and stay healthy that way.

Well here are a few good reasons. Some keen wit observed the state of the Indian traffic about 25 years ago and wrote the Indian Road Rules

START: Traveling in India is an almost hallucinatory potion of sound, spectacle and experience. It is frequently heart-rending, sometimes hilarious, mostly exhilarating, always unforgettable – and, when you are on the roads, extremely dangerous. Most Indian road users observe a version of the Highway Code based on an ancient text. These are the rules of the Indian road:


The assumption of immortality is required of all road users.


The following precedence must be accorded at all times. In descending order, give way to: cows, elephants, heavy trucks, buses, official cars, camels, light trucks, buffalo, Jeeps, ox-carts, private cars, motorcycles, scooters, auto-rickshaws, pigs, pedal rickshaws, goats, bicycles (goods-carrying),
handcarts, bicycles (passenger-carrying), dogs, pedestrians.


All wheeled vehicles shall be driven in accordance with the maxim: to slow is to falter, to brake is to fail, to stop is defeat. This is the Indian drivers’ mantra.


Use of horn (also known as the sonic fender or aural amulet).

      Cars (IV, 1, a-c):

Short blasts (urgent) indicate supremacy, i.e. in clearing dogs, rickshaws and pedestrians from path.

Long blasts (desperate) denote supplication, i.e. to oncoming truck, “I am going too fast to stop, so unless you slow down we shall both die.” In extreme cases this may be accompanied by flashing of headlights (frantic).

Single blast (casual) means “I have seen someone out of India’s 1.2 billions whom I recognize,” “There is a bird in the road (which at this speed could go through my windscreen)” or “I have not blown my horn for several minutes.”

     Trucks and buses (IV, 2, a):

All horn signals have the same meaning, viz., ‘I have an all-up weight of approximately 12.5 tons and have no intention of stopping, even if I could.” This signal may be emphasized by the use of headlamps (insouciant). Article IV remains subject to the provision of Order of Precedence in Article II above.


All manoeuvres, use of horn and evasive action shall be left until the last possible moment.


In the absence of seat belts (which there is), car occupants shall wear garlands of marigolds.


     Rights of way: Traffic entering a road from the left has priority. So has traffic from the right, and also traffic in the middle.

     Lane discipline (VII,I): All traffic at all times and irrespective of direction of travel shall occupy the centre of the road.


Roundabouts: India has no roundabouts. Apparent traffic islands in the middle of crossroads have no traffic management function. Any other impression should be ignored.


Overtaking is mandatory. Every moving vehicle is required to overtake every other moving vehicle, irrespective of whether it has just overtaken you. Overtaking should only be undertaken in suitable conditions, such as in the face of oncoming traffic, on blind bends, at junctions and in the middle of villages/city centres. No more than two inches should be allowed between your vehicle and the one you are passing – and one inch in the case of bicycles or pedestrians.

If you had a good laugh, its probably because you haven’t spent much time traveling on the roads in India, otherwise you’d know that its all true.

I have traveled long enough on Indian roads to know that the last sentence of Article IX is not at all an exaggeration. Riding around on a bicycle may be good for your health, as long as you are alive long enough to enjoy it.

We had a driver here in Mayapur, a young guy, skinny, nice kid, couldn’t knock a fly off a gulabjamun, and a complete monster once he got behind the wheel. After several trips I noticed that whenever he came up behind a bicycle he would honk his horn. If the bike-rider didn’t get out of the way quick enough, usually by running completely off the road onto the mud siding, he would pull out a fraction, get halfway past and then swerve back in, making the hapless bike rider swerve into the side of the road and usually off it.

I stopped him one time and asked him why he did that. He just shrugged as if to say, “Well, I am in a car, he’s on a bike. I am bigger than him so he has to show some respect, otherwise he gets clobbered.”

It was useless trying to explain that a mere sense of humanity should dictate that he not do this. It was only when I reminded him that if he actually hit someone the car would be blockaded and set afire with him in it, that he stopped doing it and started showing a bit more respect for his fellow road users.

What to speak of bus drivers, most of whom have only just been let out of the local loony bin, or are just about to be admitted.

 passing buses

They blast down the highway at over 100 kph passing everything in sight, tilted crazily due to broken chassis springs and from carrying at least triple the legal load of passengers on the roof.


And if you can find a sober truck driver in a vehicle that isn’t grossy overloaded, you deserve a prize. Srila Prabhupada would regularly complain about this phenomena, which nobody seems to care about, certainly not the police.


Its a rare trip indeed to travel the 125 kms. from Mayapur to Kolkata and not see at least 3-4 trucks overturned at the side of the pathetic strip of potholed tarmac they call the national ‘highway’.

rolled truck 

When you are on a bike in India, drivers of cars, buses and trucks have nothing but utter contempt for you. You are as good as this little fella

road kill

So I’m on my bike to nowhere and happy for it.

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