Friday, 24 June 2011

Delhi Traffic

We’re back in Delhi, kicking our heels here for the day as we wait for the night train to Jodhpur. Yes, it’s the place that gave the name to those posh riding pants. The temperature has definitely increased since we left last week, and I’m coming to terms with having to spend most of my time outdoors with perspiration lashing off me. And as we’re heading south to Rajasthan, I suspect the desert environment there is going toast us. It is a relief to get into a rickshaw and have the city breeze come at you through the flapping plastic roof.

I think I’ve sussed the governing principle of Delhi traffic, what it is that prevents the whole thing turning into one gigantic pile-up at each roundabout. I’ve christened it the “elephant hierarchy”. It doesn’t seem to matter how quick you can go, or how urgent your trip might be, or what sort of prestige you might be expected to command on the road. No, it seems to work along the lines that if the vehicle coming at you is bigger and heavier, you get out of its way. As you would with an elephant. So our rickshaw drives at the outer ring of traffic on Connaught Place, and manages to open passage in front of the cycle rickshaws and the various scooters that in my head notionally had the right of way. But then, halfway across the roundabout, a car appears from behind and drives directly across the front of us. Without even a toot of the horn the rickshaw driver slows to allow it past, and then weaves to get back in front of the smaller vehicles nipping at our heels. And the cars give way to big buses, and the big buses give way to plodding goods vehicles, and nobody seems to lose their temper anywhere in the middle of this. They mightn’t make great time, but they definitely have some sort of unspoken understanding about avoiding each other, and it seems to work.