Traffic in Dehrudun (click to experience it)
was especially busy on Wednesday as the taxi began the trek up the mountain to Mussoorie. The next day, August 15, was India’s Independence Day and people were in pre-celebration mode, I suppose.
I had forgotten exactly how close cars are to one another, how people just walk through traffic and scooters wriggle through the tangle of autos and rickshaws. Vehicles and people were actually within an easy reach and almost beckoned a friendly touch from my taxi window. Horns honking created a symphony with an underlining bass of rumbling motors. The air was hot and muggy in the city but, just as the roads continued to narrow the higher we ascended, so did the air. A cool, moist breeze suddenly hit as we crossed an imaginary line. Perhaps a cloud had engulfed us. My chauffeur, a well mannered young man donning a starched button-down, carefully maneuvered the twisting mountain pathway preventing me from panic.
He routinely honked his horn before each blind curve to announce his coming. Honking in the states is like using all caps in emails, a statement of dominance or release of anger. But in India, honking is the language of the road for harmony.
I arrived in time to attend Woodstock School’s Independence Day celebration. The quad and columns along the walkways were decorated with ribbons and ribbons of strung together greenery and orange flowers. The students and faculty wore traditional costumes from India (or Korea, if students were also celebrating their country’s independence) which splashed color and grandeur. An assembly in the gym provided an assortment of music and fanfare. The keynote speaker, Brian Dunn, the chaplain of the school expounded on what I had just experienced in my travel up the mountain.
His message: “Life should be like the Indian Road.” A curious statement but he convincingly argued his thesis. The roads in India are about relationships. People have to share the road and work together to safely get to their destinations. Road rage does not exist because there are no expectations of being able to singularly and effortlessly reach the desired destination, seeing others as obstacles. The slow, sugarcane-loaded truck is signaled by a gentle honk that the vehicle trailing wants to pass. Brian Dunn pointed out in India,
”I honk, therefore I am.”
The driver extends an arm and gives the wave that the coast is clear around the bend or a “caution” gesture to wait for safety, perhaps a herd of goats are on the road or a cow is at a stand still across all lanes.
That is another subject. They appear to me to be just suggestions, especially if merging through an intersection. How many fender-benders and outbreaks of road rage would happen in any other country? But, in India, each person on the road, whether on foot or in vehicles, respects the existence of the others and more like a dance, as Dunn pointed out, they instantly choreograph a ballet, of sorts, accompanied by the brass section, to merge and be on their way. The lanes do not separate the bikers and walkers, groups of children or herds of cattle and goats. People are not confined to a limited space for their existence.
The roads are about relationships,
a working together for a common good.
Shouldn’t life be like the Indian roads? A beautiful picture has been painted about working together on the road of life….but ironically after the wonder speech, everyone dismissed to the courtyard of the school for lunch, a phenomenal array of India’s culinary specialties.
All one had to do was “get in line (lane).” An Indian woman and her children managed to merge in front of us, missing the twenty-minute wait that we had had. When the non-Indian staff members told her to go to the back of the line, she just turned to them and smiled. The Indian road?