Traffic Flow Dynamics
“Does driving here scare you?” The question comes from Arpana, a woman who works in marketing at Parikrma and has been assigned the task of shuttling us between the school’s four campuses. The roads were one of the first things I noticed upon arrival. Four weeks in Bangalore, and I am confident I have not seen a crosswalk that looks anything like what I’m used to in the U.S. Intersections look like 4 gushing rivers all streaming together, and I’m still getting used to driving on the “wrong” side of the road. So to answer her simply, yes, but the driving is not what has been most alarming.
Coming from Seattle, I think what has stuck out the most is the honking. Sounding your horn within Seattle city limits is reserved for only the most extreme, life or death situations, and our passive aggressive driving style creates notorious stand stills at four way stops. Driving here scares me because it is a far cry from how I learned to drive and what I am used to at home.
Recently, I learned that the honking is used just to signal that your vehicle is close to another, and all the noise is just to alert other drivers that you’re there, the roadside version of a polite “excuse me”. The daily cacophony of honks that fill my ears has made me stop and think, with so much noise, how can any one person get their honk across? By this I mean, is anyone really hearing each other? How do you let others know that you’re there when everyone around you is doing the same thing?
As we barrel down the streets of Western Bangalore, I find myself thinking about how my fear of the roads here really mimics the apprehension I feel as we start our projects with our organizations. There is, of course, still a feeling of disbelonging. How can I train myself to stop flinching as I cross the street or think about the scope of our project? How do I begin to get accustomed to driving on the left, right, and center of the road, and moving at a similar pace between each of the four different Parikrma locations, meeting students with diverse needs and backgrounds. But most of all, how do I make sure that the honk I make on this program isn’t drowned out in a sea of similar noise?
Navigating GCIL, Bangalore, and Parikrma, I’ve found, requires an immense amount of trust in both myself and those around me. To make it anywhere, you have to surrender a little control and step off the curb, trusting that the auto driver careening towards you will know to swerve.
After learning more about my organization this week and beginning our project, I know I likely won’t be able to make a large enough honk to be heard. Luckily, it is not my sole responsibility to do so. I am struck by the support and excitement offered by my team and the staff we have met this week, and hopeful that the sound we make can be our own kind of symphony.