Where to find drama in India

Where to find drama in India
By admin

“He has place but he is just making drama,” says Krishna with a head bobble and a frown that creases the red blessing on his forehead.

This is the first time, in five days, that my driver has commented on a road transgression. Opinions are usually reserved for the car horn, which is so well-used it must be due for a tuning.

The drama in this case is a campervan which has stopped moving due to an oncoming truck on the narrow hairpin roads of the Nilgiri Mountain range on the way to Ooty, a hill station at one of the highest altitudes in South India.

Krishna is right, of course. The stalled driver is having a tantrum – most Indian drivers, no matter what the space, will somehow find a way to squeeze through.

With monkeys, bicycles, motorbikes, cows, people, black belching buses, donkeys and dirt laden tractors all pulling rank on the roads, this is one of the liveliest drives I’ve had in a lifetime. Everything is worth a beep when it comes to overtaking – as a warning, an intention, and a frustration. Trucks invite the horn on their back bumper. The ritual is written from left to right – “stop, sound horn, go”, they say.

It is festival time at the moment so trucks, buses and cars are festooned with tinsel, smears of coloured paste and marigold flowers. A motorbike passenger holds two glass panes the width of a small car in his hands while the driver negotiates the bumps. Two wheelers have the advantage though – often potholes are so big that there is nothing for four wheelers but to go off-road.

And for when the lane drama settles down, there is either village or city life happening right on the verge. The drive from Bangalore to Ooty is a public view into private worlds. Everything is on display, from the crude to the domestic. Men toilet, women wash clothes, workers pick cotton and mothers prepare evening meals. 

Large families stand at the roadside and have lunch on paper plates from metal tins of rice. Leftovers are discarded as far a distance as they can be thrown. Coconut stalls are found near these roadside picnic spots, with stallholders expertly carving the coconut into a drink with five strokes of a fierce looking curved knife.

Activity is not always so clear to ascertain, however. A toll in Tamil Nadu, on the drive to Kerala, has eight check points. Eight times you must pull over and display the same ticket to prove you paid the 31 rupee fee despite some of the stations being within eyesight of one another.

It’s what makes driving in India so captivating. Even on an eight hour car journey made yesterday, there was no thought of nodding off. India is theatre at its finest.

Email the Travel Weekly team at traveldesk@travelweekly.com.au

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