The Anglophones in India.

The Anglophones are in India and have sent the following report on their impressions.

India - The Good, the Bad and the Filthy.

Changing Money in Bareilly.

The bank is much easier to find here despite the fact that Bareilly is much bigger than Pilhibit and infested with traffic. Moreover, it does change money. The process is however archaic and takes a good 45 minutes. I even have a snooze while we wait. The first delay is caused by the fact that our clerk is serving two clients at once. The second is because the transactions (we do three: we should have made it one) have to be processed by one person, checked and recorded by another, whilst the payment is made by a third - who runs out of cash. All this involves bloody great ledgers (though there are computers in the bank and they are also being used for our transactions), forms, and a token which has to be presented to the cashier. Maureen is in stitches and it is a tragi-comedy.

Kamikazes on the roads to Delhi and Agra.

The road is a reasonable two-lane highway but driving it is very difficult as the road sense of the indigenous drivers is subnormal. Suicidal overtaking is commonplace and as a result, homicidal re-entry into the occupied left-hand lane is frequently attempted. The main culprits are the lorry and more especially the bus drivers, but motorbikes and the relatively few private cars are also chauffered by nitwits.

Overtaking is not the only example of brain-dead driving. It is normal for vehicles that join the road from the side to do so without any reference to the presence of traffic on the carriageway. Ditto vehicles pulling out after having stopped in the road.

And the arrangement when the barrier goes down at a level crossing has to be seen to be believed. All the smaller vehicles drive up to the barrier in the right-hand lane. When this is full, they form a third line on the right-hand verge. Thus as the barrier goes up, the entire road at both sides of the track is completely blocked.

No great interest en route. The same flat land, the same lousy driving, the same busy and dirty villages and towns. Perhaps the most interesting sight was the big lorry on its side just near our campsite. Lorries are no more badly driven than buses but it's always lorries that are seen belly up. The reason is clear: large numbers of them are grossly overloaded, and many are seriously top heavy. Yesterday we observed numerous lorries that had an extension to their already tall height. This was made with a series of angled poles which are then ‘lined’ with tarpaulin. This creates a huge ‘pool’ which is then infilled with material. The one we saw under construction as it were was being filled with what appeared to be chaff and the latter was being pressed down by the feet of 8-12 blokes. The product of all this work is a lorry shaped like a T which has to travel in the middle of the road or it would fell trees.

[On the Agra-bound road in Delhi] The traffic is dreadful and the journey is very unpleasant. At one point we see a likely garage [for a repair] but pass it and then have to do two u-eys to get back. The first u-ey involves lots of pushing and hand signals to enable us to cross the traffic. A white car finally succumbs to our pressure/blandishments and stops. We pull across him whilst a following bus simply runs right up his arse. M and I didn't see the damage but the others did and it was not good.

[From Agra to Jaipur] We've been delayed en route by the clearing up of a major accident. A car has gone head-on into a big lorry. The latter is completely disabled, the former a total disaster area, the most damaged vehicle I've ever seen. The traffic jam that results brings out the worst in the Indian drivers. Those in small cars simply jump the queue even when there is literally nowhere to jump to. This brings out the worst in me: at one point I go head to head with an oncoming queue-jumper and literally push him back and off the road.

[And Jaipur to Delhi] a very speedy journey, making the 250km in less than 5 hours of driving time. We also get a very safe journey. The size of the road and the low volume of traffic completely foxes the capacity of the Indian driver to manufacture a fatal accident out of nothing. Not that the odd one does not try. In the course of the journey at least ten road users (camel carts, tractors, lorries, a car) drive at us on the wrong side of the central reservation, sometimes in the fast lane.

Les Brook.

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