Audis, BMWs, Mercs, and Skodas vying for road space with antique Maruti 800s, ancient Bajaj Chetak scooters, auto-rickshaws and the like. That is the scene on an average day in Vizag. But irrespective of the vehicle driven, there are some specific idiocies of driving in Vizag that never change.
A site dedicated to visiting Vizag had some ‘helpful’ tips about driving in the city. It started with: ‘Unlearn all you have been taught about road-rules. In Vizag, motorists have their own style of driving, you will catch on easily, just forget all the driving etiquette you picked up over the years. Just follow the simple cardinal rule – the bigger vehicle rules, but in a mishap, it is again the bigger vehicle which is at fault – by default.’ Fuming at this dim view an international traveller had regarding our ‘cherished’ driving etiquette in Vizag, we sat back to observe as our skilled driver navigates through Vizag’s busy roads. Needless to add, we were in for an awakening…
The cacophony of horns
Observation: We Vizagites love our horns – we are even capable of blowing it for no apparent reason! So what if the vehicle in front has stopped at a red light or behind a bus, so what if there is no possible way for the vehicle to give way – we express our sentiments with the horn! And no-horn zones near hospices; do they even exist in our city? How else are you expected to announce your esteemed presence behind the wheel if it were not for the melodiously loud horn?!
Inference: Honking does not unblock the traffic (nope, not even incessant honking).
Observation: While metaphorically most of us are in a rat race when it comes to our career or education, Vizag’s drivers are perpetually in an actual (rat) race! Everyone is in a hurry; every slow-moving vehicle is a major hindrance and every zealously driven vehicle overtaking and squeezing through any feasible space is justified. And in the spirit of the race, it is perfectly normal to overtake or be overtaken from any side, without any proper signalling. Furthermore, if a vehicle overtakes your car, you are obligated to overtake it back.
Inference: Motorists here prove their dexterity behind the wheel with their overtaking skills.
Observation: Vizagites shrewdly change their lanes every two seconds – both while driving and when stuck in traffic. See a gap; squeeze into it is their ‘wise’ ploy to reach their destination faster. The concept of driving along a lane and actually using your indicators when changing lanes is virtually non-existent in our city. When asked, a true-blue Vizagite answered in all earnestness – “Lane discipline? Oh, you mean LINE discipline, but that is for children in schools. Why do you need discipline for cars on the road?”
Inference: For all practical purposes, that neatly painted white strip on the road is just for decoration.
Racing across the crossings
Observation: Slightly confused, an out-of-breath non-Vizagite had once asked, “Are the zebra crossings meant for vehicles or pedestrians?” Well, in Vizag, that is debatable. Most of the enthusiastic drivers in our city actually speed up and try to race the misguided pedestrian before he manages to get across the road on the neatly painted white stripes. After all, shouldn’t vehicles have the right of way on the road?
Inference: Vizag pedestrians are good sprinters!
The great ‘Rubbernecks’
Observation: Every road accident is automatically very interesting – no, nobody stops to actually help, but everyone slows to an almost halt to eyeball the scene. It is a wonder that the passing motorist does not get involved in an accident himself while so deftly rubbernecking!
Inference: Vizagites are sensitive; they need spice for their gossip sessions, hence the fervent rubbernecking.
Observation: The start and stop movement of a game like tennis or badminton is said to be good exercise; well our conscientious auto drivers regularly ‘exercise’ their vehicles using this technique in abundance! You never know when they will come to an absolute stop mid road and calmly pick up or drop off a passenger while you take a couple of deep breaths trying to settle your silly self and thank your stars for hitting the breaks just in time.
Inference: With every drive, you get to fine tune your reflexes.
Bright as the day
Observation: And the motorist said, ‘Let there be light’ as he switched on his High Beam. Bright lights that illuminate the street ahead as good as day might make driving easier; can’t be helped if it severely affects the oncoming motorists. So what if it literally blinds the driver of the oncoming car, low beams are so dim in comparison.
Inference: Only in Vizag do you actually feel the need of goggles while driving at night.
Red, what red?
Observation: The lone man in white. It is his stately presence that decides whether the traffic signals are going to be effective at the junction or not. It is his imperious gaze that keeps vehicles in check, behind the lines. Firmly believing in the dictum – out of sight, out of mind; the moment the ‘man in white’ is absent; Vizag’s legendary motorists forget the very meaning of a red light.
Inference: The man in white wields an extraordinary power!