The long and crazy road

Guess who got run into by a motorbike today?

Given the amount of bonkers drivers around here, I figured it was only a matter of time before I saw an accident, I just didn’t think I was going to be involved in one.

Before anyone (i.e., mother) panics, I should point out that no Caroline’s were harmed in the making of this anecdote, and I’m only really mentioning it because it brings me nicely into what I had planned to write about.

The terrible infrastructure I’ve seen so far in India is what’s been the biggest culture shock for me. Electricity can be intermittent in places, buildings are crumbling and the roads are an appalling mishmash of potholes, bits of swamp, rickshaw assault courses and herds of cattle. Road signs and markings are ignored as drivers compete with each other at break-neck speed, aiming for any bit of road space available and honking their horns the whole time they’re at it.

road sign
Most cars have massive dents in them and loads of their rear lights are stuck together using parcel tape. When I asked my driver about it, he just laughed and said: “It’s just Indian style, I don’t drive that way now as you would be scared.” Our little accident happened when a bike just came straight out of a side road and ploughed into our side – the biker reckoned it was our fault as we hadn’t honked our horn and made it obvious where we were.

Scarily, the roads are apparently loads better than they have been. The government resurfaced a lot of them around Delhi and Agra ahead of the Commonwealth Games as they wanted to prove to tourists that India is a developed place. Talk to locals and they are proud of what’s been done here too – to them, these developments prove that they really are a modern country and set to be a global super power.

India’s economy is growing at about 7% a year, making it the fastest-growing behind China. It’ll be interesting to see what happens here in the coming years, but from what I’ve seen so far I think India’s got a long way to go before the country really is able to compete with super-powers like the US and Europe. The disparities are too huge (there are massive office blocks and shopping malls with tents and slums at their bases) and attempts at redevelopment seem shoddy.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this and I don’t want to turn this into a human geography essay (I’m sure Mr Geography will delight in filling me in on some thrilling theory about this), but I took a bit of video when we were driving through a village yesterday to try to show you what the streets are like.

Apologies for the wobbliness and shoddy camera work as it’s through a car window. And apologies for being a cliche and using a Slumdog track for soundtrack, I couldn’t resist:

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