Travelling in India, Johan Badenhorst and his Voetspore team have discovered, is a whole different kettle of fish than travelling in Africa. This month Johan elaborates on the unique intricacies of India.
We always knew India was going to be different. There are many similarities between Africa and India, especially the African countries south of the equator. It is perhaps only the former Portuguese colonies of Mozambique and Angola that are really different in language, culture and architecture. Operating in Gaborone, Lusaka, Kampala or Nairobi is not foreign to us. But now we hit India. This first thing to get used to is that it is imprinted in every Indian to please. It is therefore exceptionally difficult to say “no”. To address this issue, the Indians developed what is referred to as a head wobble. It is by moving the head in a figure of eight when answering a question. You are therefore never sure if the answer is “yes” or “no”. Perhaps “maybe”.
When I asked when our bikes would be delivered, I was given a date with a head wobble. When I asked when our Cruisers would be cleared from Customs, I was given a date with a head wobble. I got my answer! Or so they thought (the one date was correct, the other, not). The problem with India is that it inherited a bureaucracy from Great Britain when it became independent in 1947. Then they decided to refine it to make it even more complicated. Therefore no one can tell you with exact precision how long any process will be. That is where the head wobble becomes quite handy. Nothing is 100% clear.
This had a huge influence on the Indian lifestyle and their day-to-day conduct. Standing in a queue or waiting in line at a counter is a basic rule, but not cast in stone. If you want to get ahead and nobody complains, no problem. It also applies to their conduct on the roads. We are now driving two motorbikes and two Cruisers. The Indian drivers see every vehicle as a motorbike. When approaching a stop street, traffic light, obstruction or congested traffic, you get your vehicle’s nose in as far ahead as possible. Road markings are merely for cosmetic appeal. When you drive a little Suzuki Maruti, Tata Indica or one of the tuk-tuks, this is simple. Try and do it in a Cruiser! Anyone who gets road rage because of the mini-bus taxis in South Africa should visit India for therapy. You will never be upset again.
Speaking of road rage; this is non-existent in India. You hear hooters all the time, and for a very good reason. When driving in India you are responsible for what is happening in front of you. Many motorbikes don’t have rear-view mirrors. I saw most luxury vehicles with their mirrors bent in because in India, you only look ahead. That is why the hooter is so important. You have to inform the driver in front of you that you are there. More importantly, you use it when you want to overtake. First make some noise. At first it feels like a huge challenge to drive in these condition, but the sooner you learn to go with the flow, push your nose in where possible, allow others who are in front of you to have the right of way and to work your vehicle’s hooter overtime, then you too, can be an Indian driver.