Off Season Tourist - India Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta
Two weeks in India, 2003 Notes from the Off Season Tourist
Our first, and only accident
By default, the larger car is always to blame.

Our first anniversary was spent in upstate New York, Hudson River Valley, where it rained a lot. Our second was at the Grand Hotel in Michigan, where the fabulous film, "Somewhere in Time," was shot, and where it also rained a lot. Our third anniversary found us in Delhi where it did not rain once and where time seemed to have gotten itself lost for decades in the maze of wrong turns that are the streets of the city.

We were being driven to a five-star hotel to eat at what was considered to be one of the two best restaurants in the city. The other restaurant was located in the same hotel! It was evening and there wasn't even the hint of a breeze in the air. Once again the view through the car window revealed a multitude of colourful activity, but this evening's drive seemed filled with more motorcycles than ever before. We had already noted the skills of all the women in India whose husbands drive motorcycles. Sitting side-saddle, and maintaining social propriety by not touching their husbands, these women balance perfectly on the 12 inch square plastic seat and have the composure to appear unperturbed by their rapid speed and constant close proximity to other vehicles. Never once did we see a dupatta (the scarf worn with a salwar kameez) fall from their shoulders and on many occasions a small child (or two) could be seen peeking through the arm of a saree, the cloth trailing always too close to the spinning rear wheel. We had just noted a side-saddled green saree wearer carrying a new ironing board back from the market as her husband revved the Hero Honda beside our car. I was wondering if it were possible for this woman to actually iron clothes while being driven around the city when a Vespa moped ran into the side of our car.

A Delhi roundabout
An Old Delhi roundabout
We were in the middle of a roundabout at the time. The rules of the roundabout in India are closer to those of France since it is the vehicles that are coming onto the roundabout that have the right of way. They do not however have the right to bash into a car and then, sensing they are still alive, attempt to rush off into the night. Sanju, our always-alert driver, was just that little bit quicker. I don't care to recall in detail how he actually navigated our car across three lanes of traffic on the roundabout and cut off the speedy Vespa with its tipsy driver at the pinion. Suddenly the car was stopped and Sanju jumped out, demanding money and writing down the license plate of the scooter on the palm of his left hand.

Within seconds a policeman appeared on foot, holding his long thin wooden truncheon ready in his hand. Oddly, he walked out from the busy traffic on the right side of the car instead of from the side of the road on our left. There was no central island on which a policeman would stand to direct traffic so it is uncertain how he came to be there. Obviously, no one had been injured in the crash and so our only worry at this point was that Sanju, whom we vastly preferred of the two drivers we had experienced, might have to attend court instead of driving us around Rajasthan ... this would leave us with the other driver who annoyingly believed that his horn was the most important part of the car to use at all times. Sanju on the other hand had not even used his horn in this accident.

Sanju was quickly back in the car, slightly shaken but without concern. He explained that the standard rule for finding fault in an accident is for the police to blame the larger vehicle. This was why it was important for Sanju to stop the Vespa driver, who he claimed had been drinking and who fortunately admitted to the policeman that it was his own fault. Sanju also mentioned that in order for accidents and tickets to not go on official record, payments are often given directly to the first policeman on the scene.

Driving on to the restaurant we discovered that a five star hotel believes in flaunting the expensive air conditioning system it has installed and so my sandaled and sock free feet shivered until the Brandy Wellington kicked in.

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