After a short hop from Dubai, here I am in Hyderabad. The flight was good enough, and I ate well…TOO well. I had ordered the mezze platter and some fruit, wanting to err on the lighter side, but the flight attendant told me they were out. So, she brought a couple alternatives instead, including some smoked salmon and a curry potato dish. They were yummy. However, as I dug in, she appeared again with a mezze platter from First Class! Not wanting to be rude, I thanked her and accepted it. Now my tray was full of food again, which is what I was trying to avoid. Everything was delicious and I was soon over any guilt for overeating. Hey, you only fly once halfway around the world in business class,! Right, Dave? 🙂
After picking up my luggage and converting $100 to Rupees, I found my driver, a local by the name of Christopher Joseph. We left the airport in a nice Emirates car and headed out in the darkness to the hotel.
I think I went a bit more gray after that ride.
First off, some observations. These are not meant to be specifically against the wonderful people of Hyderabad, who have, to wit, been very accommodating and quite nice. But the fact of the matter is, I became quickly convinced that traffic here is at best organized chaos. It’s also clear to me that I could never operate a vehicle here, not without killing myself or others.
I think I can best portray the movement of cars, motorbikes and pedestrians as a well-orchestrated ballet. Expressive, flowing, and at all times on the knife’s edge of impending doom and destruction.
The first thing Christopher warned me about is that “there are really no traffic rules”. This got the blood pumping right away. While we were on the open highway, I saw a few sparse examples, like the truck parked in the far lane, facing the wrong way, with his bright lights on (Christopher reacted most expertly in avoiding certain doom). I also didn’t hear much of the legendary honking I’ve read about.
That was because we were still on the highway, at night, on a Monday.
Getting closer to town I realized the full and awesome spectacle that is Indian vehicle traffic. I actually had to look away from the front window, MANY times, just because I didn’t want to “see it coming”.
Nobody stayed in their lanes, I was completely surprised by the number of motorbikes carrying 2 people, both of whom wore sandals and maybe one helmet between them (about half), and just how utterly precise one’s skills have to be to pass another vehicle with only INCHES between! I’m not kidding. Inches. I was telling myself, far too often, “Oh yeah, we’re going to lose some paint this time.”
The other behavior I didn’t expect was people brazen enough to just step off the side of the road and cross while this metal-and rubber ballet continued without losing it’s pace. I remember seeing just faces..calm faces…as people appeared from nowhere right before us. I’m sure my brake foot has several sprains I haven’t yet noticed.
It was literally a hair-raising experience. We made it to the hotel safely though, and the only reason I figure we did is that everyone is intimately familiar with the ebb and flow of the chaos, and so it’s just natural for everyone to expect and react to what I saw as certain metal-crunching doom.
So, last night was an exciting start. Today my coworker and I are off to meetings at the remote campus, so it looks like most the day will be spent in meet-and-greet. And so until later, adieu.