|This guy is scared of all the traffic!
We have nearly gotten run over, trampled and horned (by oxen) during our first couple days in Mumbai. Getting around here and learning how to stay in one piece on the streets definitely took some practice. There are a billion different things happening between the facades of opposing buildings of which the activities have no clear boundaries and are continuously adapting to the immediate circumstances.
We began by walking. Our first instinct was to use the sidewalk but since they are often in such terrible condition, nonexistent or occupied as family living rooms, the road becomes a better option. That is until the traffic comes, and it comes in every form and speed and direction possible. From cars to bikes and oxcarts to wheelbarrows, having people drive on the left side of the road doesn’t help me to predict where things are headed. In comparison to Spain where the cars look like they are going to kill you but always seem to stop just in time, here the traffic is slow but will definitely hit you if you are in the way.
|The variety of street activities
Instead of lanes, traffic signals and sidewalks, the road is full of shops, vendors, parking; it is no wonder that the horn is a necessity here. Car horns, bicycle bells and even people yelling determines who gets through the crowd. In Canada, as other places I have visited, horns are used to get attention and avoid collision, here they are part of signaling and communication. Since every form of transportation inhabits the same space, horns let people know to get out of the way. This has become so prevalent now that many people continue to honk down wide empty streets and don’t even bother to turn on their lights at night time.
The train is another story. I haven’t taken a long distance over night train yet, but the ones within the city are crazy enough. The doors don’t close! And yes they are jam packed much of the time, but I have yet to see somebody fall out (I have asked and it does happen). But oddly enough the edge of the carriage with your head poking outside is the best spot on the train, since you get a warm breeze rather than the armpit of the guy next to you (don’t worry mom, I don’t stand there since the ladies coach is much less crammed and doesn’t smell as bad).