He who is loudest wins: Urban roads in Mumbai are a kaleidoscopic miasma of vehicular and non-vehicular traffic, including such diverse things as cars, trucks, motor-rickshaws (three-wheeled taxis), bicycle-rickshaws, motor scooters, elephants, goats, dogs, children, chickens, bearers, push-carts, and buses. These things are all moving. If you want to pass anything honk your horn, everyone will honk theirs as well. In fact even if you don’t want to overtake anything honk it anyway. My driver just liked the sound of our horn and would blast it at any and every opportunity just for the sheer joy of hearing the sound. When you honk your horn everyone who is not in a hurry will move politely aside to let you through, unfortunately everyone is in a hurry, but I’m sure they would move aside if they weren’t. So he who is loudest gets the right-of-way. If the other vehicles and livestock don’t yield to the loudest horn, the vehicle with the right-of-way enters the lane of oncoming traffic and passes those ahead – especially on a busy street at rush hour. This must be especially fun if you are in a flimsy motor-rickshaw, with a huge truck bearing down on you.

Don’t hit the cows: In addition to the moving traffic, you have a number of stationary targets, sorry, obstacles, including cows, beggars, street repair crews, double-parked cars and trucks and elephants. You are in the right as long as you don’t hit the cows. The cows can be ANYWHERE in the street. Sometimes they sit in the central reservation, but more often than not you find them sitting right in the middle of the road. All traffic flows around the cow. Other animals or people are not so lucky.

All roads shall be repaired once every 20 years, whether they need it or not: The state of road surfaces in Mumbai are a miracle of manual labour. Everything is done by hand, including the removal of old asphalt (apparently you burn a fire on top of the road until it gets soft), laying the stone, mixing concrete (usually right on top of the street), and levelling the surface. The tools are shovels and picks and brooms. This insures the maximum amount of work for the repair crews with the heaviest work being done by frail looking old ladies. This also insures the maximum amount of disruption of traffic, because the process of resurfacing a stretch of road must take a minimum of five years. The process of building a one mile stretch of new road takes about ten years. When they are done resurfacing, the condition of the road is likely to be nearly identical to its previous condition, meaning full of potholes, step changes in height, etc. Since most vehicles appear lack any sort of suspension, a short ride around town is a bone-jarring, exhausting, white-knuckled adventure. For example, on the trip from the airport to the hotel, on my arrival in Mumbai, the driver hit what appeared to be a half buried cannon ball approximately 10 inches across just sticking out of the middle of the road with such force that I was sure he would rip the axle clean out from under us. But no, he just turned, smiled over his shoulder and honked his horn.

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