Getting Ahead

Driving in India is not about reaching a destination, much less about reaching it in time.  The concept of “in time” doesn’t really exist. “Indian Standard Time” is the nationwide chuckle, as things invariably occur impossibly behind schedule.

Driving is about passing.

Pedestrians, cyclists, and other small vehicles are pushed from the roadways as larger vehicles overtake, and are then overtaken by each other. (As with all things in India, wealth has the right-of-way.) Bus drivers avert head-on collisions by centimeters as they battle to pass other traffic within 50 meters of their stop. At the rare urban intersection where red lights or traffic police stop the flow, two-, three-, and four-wheelers alike squeeze toward the front, filling the gaps as though they were water, trying to steal a few feet of advantage at the re-start. It is not necessarily about being first, but about being ahead of the next guy, and then the next. It is a competition without prize, and without hope that anyone might ever finish as champion.

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