When we realized that we were moving to Bangalore, we started making lists of all of the things that we would need while we were here. We figured that transportation for Willy to get to the office and the lils to get to school was high on the list, given the relative proximity to one another and the limited public transit. I immediately started researching, and Willy started talking to his colleagues here.
The more digging we did, the more it became apparent that not only was a car a necessity to get pretty much every where, but that that car would need to have a driver too. Our first clue was in talking to the folks that are helping with the relocation. When we suggested that schools within a kilometre of so potential housing locations would be worth considering as we preferred to walk our children to school, there was a long pause. When she spoke again, it was simply to say “oh, you won’t be walking them to school, or anywhere.”
We brushed it off as her being overly cautious, and kept making plans. We started to prepare for our trip, and Willy talked to local colleagues about it. They had much advice, a good deal of it around road safety. “Just make sure you are very careful in crossing the road on foot. Do expect challenges in road crossing and do not expect any rules or cars stopping for you on road. Barring road crossing city is quite safe…”, said one note. “To be honest I do not think you should even attempt to drive… Expect all rule breaks as there are actually no rules here,” cautioned another. I couldn’t believe it was that bad. Then a friend sent us this link, which claims that Bangalore is among top cities with the most horrific traffic in the world.
It really hit us when we got here. Willy had experienced some amount of the traffic when he was here two years ago, but it is seemingly worse. There are cars, scooters, motorcycles, city buses, construction vehicles, pedestrians, auto rickshaws, and bicycles coming at you from all directions. While driving, if you need to merge with traffic, you can wait, or just force the other cars into oncoming traffic. If you need to cut across, it is acceptable that there will be disruption to traffic in all directions. U-turns can be fast, or slow. The other cars will just avoid you, you hope. No one uses their signal lights, they use their horn or repeated flashes of their brights to signal their intent or tell you to get out of the way. Lastly, there are stray animals and livestock everywhere on the roads, even the “faster” roads coming in to the city centre. They don’t move or seem bothered by the cars and noise, so the cars are expected to avoid them.
The scariest part for me is the complete disregard for what we have come to recognize as personal safety rules. Very few of the cars have seat belts in the back, there are no car seats, most drivers of the ‘cycles don’t wear helmets or wear helmets that are undone or won’t protect you in a crash, talking on cell phones is outlawed so many drivers are texting as they drive, the aforementioned livestock roaming free on many higher speed roads, and there is seemingly no limit on the number of people that you can cram on/in a vehicle. Today I saw four on a motorcycle! Two adults and two small children, three of them sitting sideways, zipping through traffic.
There were countless times that I closed my eyes and thought I was going to die over the last few days. I am told that accidents just do not happen,and that I will get over that, but I am certain that it will take longer than a year. It will be pretty hard to drive with my eyes closed, so maybe it’s just best if we get that recommended driver while we are here.