Wild Ride

Driving through the streets of India triggers some slight similarities to driving around Times Square in New York City. While sitting in a van traveling to and from various places, all there is to do is to take in the scenery as we drive throughout Chennai. As I sat in the van; which the little air conditioning provided some shelter against the boiling heat outside, I would see shops line most of the streets, their awnings brights colors which grab you're attention. Some shops are even lined with lights, and resemble the familiar shops of Times Square slightly more. Another observation which has resemblance to home are all of the people that line the sidewalks and that are trying to cross the streets. The women are dressed in beautiful clothes, made of bright, vibrant colors, and decorated with beads also draws my attention as I have never seen anything like this before. Gazing out of the window, I also see small children dressed in uniforms, walking with their friends or family member(s) to school. Seeing people everywhere, adults and children alike, navigation this chaotic situation really astonishes me, as there are basically no rules to the driving here in Chennai. People appear to be calm, pedestrians and drivers alike, as this chaotic mess is normal for them. Lastly, the noise level caught my attention, yet I wasn't phased with the constant loud noises. With the streets not having lanes, honking is a essential part to driving in Chennai as it will let other driver know that you are coming. While I am gazing at the shops, people, and cows going by my window, I sometimes start to fall asleep. Whenever this happens, the loud honking of the cars jolts me back into reality where I resume my gazing, trying to stay awake with the jet lag drowning me, trying to pull me into a deep lull.

One question that immediately comes to my mind is how people manage to stay calm and collected, to not have a fear of being run over by cars. I find the streets of Chennai to be very busy, making the busiest times of New York traffic seem not nearly as bad at all. There not being any stop light or walkways would definitely cause me to feel unsafe, but as I gaze out of the van window, I see young kids walking across these hectic streets by themselves, not flinching or seeming nervous at all. Similar to this, I wonder if the driving in other cities is the same, and if yes, was the adjustment to learning how to drive in Chennai easy to hard. I wonder that if people coming from other countries who drive here also found it difficult to adjust to how driving works in this city. 

Gazing out the window and taking this all in made me feel both at ease and in shock/awe of what the people here do. This also made me question my independence and capability to roam the streets, as I feel that the people of Chennai would find the crazy busy streets of New York City to be calm and easy to deal with. Aside from walking the streets, I also feel like the drivers of Chennai are under a lot more stress than the drivers of New York because they drivers here have vehicles coming from all different directions. Since there are no lanes, I feel like they should be concerned about scratching or denting their car, but the drivers show no signs of distress. I have only just arrived two days ago, so everything that I am experiencing, like the driving, completely captures my attention and awes me, always making the car rides interesting. 

- Janneke Evans

Niswarth ProgramComment