Driving in Tamil Nadu

The way they drive here in Southern India is so different than what I’m used to. The roads are filled with people, bicycles, carts, tuck tucks, and buses, plus some cows and occasionally a few pigs and chickens.

On a two lane road, there are no lanes . . . or maybe there are 7 lanes. There’s an organic flow with drivers giving each other the needed space so everyone can move forward.

People are on their horns constantly with persistent bursts: beep-beep-beep, beep-beep-beep, beep-beep-beep. My sociologist friend Joe had a great way of describing the meaning of  the horns: They say “I’m here, I’m here, I’m here”, not “Get out of my way you asshole”. Not to have a horn here would be a great liability, like not having windshield wipers on a rainy day.

Despite the craziness, tempers don’t flair. There seems to be a sense of respect from everyone to everyone. And infinite patience. A driver in one direction will slow down to let a driver going the opposite way get around an ox cart, with apparently nary a held breath; it’s all part of normal here.

I can’t help but think that the way they drive is deeply connected with the spirituality of the region. It seems to infuse their culture, with every little town or village at least having a small temple. The cars and buses even are dressed with garland, Ganesha statues, or other artifacts. But it is the way people treat each other that is the most impressive. There really seems to be a strong understanding that we are all interconnected; all part of the vast fabric of creation. I could fold my hands into anjali mudra and bow to almost anyone, and I would probably get a smile and the gesture returned.

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One Response to Driving in Tamil Nadu

  1. Great perspective, thanks. We feel like we’re there.

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