Work recently gave me the opportunity to spend a night in Dehli and four in Bangalore. Unfortunately, I spent most of the time in transport, posh hotels, or (not-so-posh) offices. I did get one evening stroll in with a dutchman on the streets of Domlur, Bangalore.
This photo from a side street captures our experience pretty well—far more grit and disorder than our Western eyes are accustomed to—but misses the essence of the heavily car-trafficed roads. Lane discipline is nonexistent, all manner of vehicles intermingle with pedestrians, stops and starts are sudden and seemingly random, and horns beep incessantly. My colleague's video clip from our commute only begins to convey chaos. Most Westerners find it unsettling, to say the least.
But in that pandemonium I found the lesson of my visit. The apparently aggressive behavior is a farce of sorts. Though we're inclined to see hostility in the behavior of Indian drivers, it's not there. No one is angry, and "rage" is the last word I'd use to describe anyone's state of mind on those roads. Once you see beyond our social norms and see the calm, it's contagious. You can sit back and find stability in the chaos.
It's freeing, as if realizing the storm you've been stuck in and fearful of is only an illusion, and you're free to sit quietly while it passes by. Very appropriate for a country with Mahatma Gandhi on their banknotes.