I have a new hero, and his name is Ahmed. He is my father’s driver here in Mumbai, and I must thank him for safely driving my father safely every day, and now he’s driving me, too. The traffic here is crazy, to say the least. I spend a lot of time gaping out the window, incredulous that we avoided an accident. As far as vehicles on the road, there are big trucks, SUV’s, regular cars, motorcycles, mopeds/scooters, and auto-rickshaws. And there are a LOT of all of these! There are people walking on the side of the road and down the middle of the road. There are no lines drawn on the road, and my father says when there are lines on the road, they are mostly for appearances’ sake — no one really abides by the lines anyway. The intersections don’t really have traffic lights (I have seen only 1 or 2 intersections with them), and there are no stop signs anywhere. Adding to my own personal confusion is the fact that here in India, they drive on the opposite side of the road. I know that doesn’t faze Ahmed, but it does me! Motorcycles and mopeds will zip between cars and trucks. More than once I was sure someone was going to be smashed between our car and a truck. When Ahmed needs to make a right turn (remember, that’s like our left turn), he will turn from any point in the road. That means there might be 2 or 3 cars are attempting to turn right at the same time. You have to go for it when there is the slightest opening because if you wait for the traffic to clear or for an open enough space to make the turn, you will never make the turn. There is an awful lot of braking and horn honking. Even as I write this (at 12:25 AM), I can hear all the horns from the cars 27 floors below me. Added excitement tonight was the rain. It was a torrential downpour. Streets were flooded. And it was the same exact traffic situation. People were walking in water halfway up their shins. No umbrellas. No rain coats. One man got splashed as a car drove by him through a large puddle. There were people on motorcycles and mopeds in the driving rain and crashing lightning and thunder. At one point, we turned a corner and there was a man lying face down in the middle of the street! he appeared to be trying to get up. We were all like, “What happened? What’s going on?” but Ahmed just told us the man probably had too much to drink and was resting in the road. There were people on the side of the road. Hopefully one of them was able to get this man out of the road because I have no clue how we was NOT going to be run over! Ahmed drives a motorcycle here to the apartment building to pick up my dad and my dad’s car. I was quite concerned about him driving home in the storm on his motorcycle. Dad offered to let him take the car, but Ahmed declined. In his village, there really is no place to park the car. He told my dad he planned to take an auto-rickshaw, which in my opinion is only marginally better. They are covered, but the sides are open, so the passenger is still going to get pretty wet. Plus they are little, and not all of them have lights in the front and/or the back, so they are easy to miss on the crowded, crazy streets. Dad suspected he still may take the motorcycle home.
Sunday, we are going with a tour guide to see more of Mumbai. Brenda keeps chuckling because she says I haven’t seen ANYTHING when it comes to traffic in Mumbai yet. All I know is I am glad my new hero Ahmed will be at the wheel.