Imagine: you’re in your car, this time, with the steering wheel on the right. Traffic is moving in the opposite direction of what you’re used to. The grumble of the engine awakens the car and it begins to breathe frosty air onto your sweat-caked face. You begin to look for a lane to put yourself in, but there are no white lines on the ground. Instead is a long black road. On the road, green and yellow rickshaws zoom past you ignoring any type of speed limit. You turn your head to see where the rickshaw came from and a herd of 10 brown cows are trekking along 5 inches from your window. Wanting to touch them, you roll down your window and stick out your hand and pet the furry beasts. Soon the dense air of India enters your nostrils causing you to gasp for the AC air for a brief moment, but then you become accustomed to it. A loud horn pierces your ears, startled, you look out you’re side mirror and shove your hand back into your car as a motorcyclist races past in-between the cows and your car. You think how can he fit in that space? Until you look around and see bicyclist and more motorcyclists fitting into the tiniest cracks in-between cars and even trucks. This is Ahmedabad. This is India.
Ahmedabad’s city streets are the busiest streets I’ve seen. The people of this city know only one type of culture on the road: don’t stop and if you do, not for more than 5 seconds. They’ve grown to read unspoken signals from each other and know where everyone is. Instead of the American method of stop go stop go, the people of Ahmedabad have adopted a ceaseless flow. With a large population needing to travel to places quickly, there is no room for traffic lights and road signs. Just flow. Everyone seems to be one with each other. People have a general awareness of their surrounding that far surpasses anything I’ve seen before. Battling the scorching heat drivers have a keen ability to tune in and avoid the countless number of pedestrians weaving through traffic. The street scene if hectic. Noisy, and disorganized, everywhere you turn there are bikes and motorcycles going in any direction, including the lane opposing traffic. Dogs, goats, cows, and even camels travel throughout the city taking up their own space next to trucks. The road is a shared place. A common theme I’ve noticed: sharing. Sharing, love, patience, empathy, advice anything. Really it’s one thing the people here are good at doing. Living the motto of Niswarth, not for one’s self.
There is an alternative method to the American style of having order on a street, and its called disorder.
It’s a free for all. Everyone squeezes into the tightest spaces possible and fits as many people as they can into a car. The more interesting part to this tale is that there seems to be no cause for alarm in the eyes of anyone. Close calls on the road that are too close for comfort for Americans are what Indians call every day life. People on the street move with waves of fluidity and hardly stop. When you’re about to take a turn across the opposite lane and a car coming the opposite way is speeding toward you don’t stop. You slow down and barely miss the oncoming car. Cars and motorcycles are one with each other. There is a fluid pattern that constitutes the behavior they have with each other.