India observations

street cricketMore from my India trip –

–    After just a week here, I have realized that it is virtually impossible to watch live TV in India. The greed with respect to ads is just unbelievable. Thanks to owning a DVR, my dad actually figured out the content/ad ratio. It is an incredible 8/22 for every 30minutes of viewing time. Isn’t there some kind of FCC-like organization in India that regulates that? Even live cricket isn’t spared; since the game can’t actually be interrupted, the ads frame the play, something akin to the old days of cable television where ads would bounce and ripple their way along the bottom, top, and occasionally the middle while movies were being screened.

–    The corollary to that is that viewers in India (especially those not owning a DVR) have incredibly low levels of patience. After all, every TV watching experience is fraught with the desire to escape the ads, so you click, click, click the remote all the time, trying desperately to find a channel that has some actual programming. My sample is admittedly pretty low, statistically speaking, but across two cities and several relatives, I noticed that this lack of patience spread to other walks of life as well. Turns out this American citizen, used to things working when and how they are supposed to, actually could deal much better with drivers not showing up, traffic at a standstill, and the generally slower pace of life much better than the Indian residents. (To be fair, it could have been that my family was unhappy at the impression India was making on me and that translated to stress on their part.)

–    Enough has been written about the chaos of Indian traffic and I won’t repeat it here, except to say that I have to believe a force field a few millimeters thick exists around all objects on the road. How else to explain the innumerable number of narrow misses? I saw helmet-less children riding pillion on scooters in a hyper aware state; their legs in a constant dance to keep out of harm’s way.

–    Which leads to the conclusion that driving in India is not for the reflex-challenged. And sure enough, the average age of a motorist on Indian roads appears to be in the 30s. The few grey-haired uncles I saw were keeping cautiously to the edges of the road; not engaging in the typical competitive machismo that defines Indian traffic.

–    That machismo is particularly visible in drivers of two-wheelers (gender be damned). Motorists in India have internalized the adage of being like sugar in milk; they will be rush to fill any empty spots between the larger molecules represented by cars and trucks. I found it particularly inexplicable. After all, the aggressiveness doesn’t mean more than a minute or two saved in the total travel time, but the risk of serious bodily injury (in Chennai the helmet rule is almost universally flouted) is disproportionately high. When I mentioned this to a friend who recently relocated to India, she had an interesting take on this. “Ask anyone of these crazy drivers what they do professionally and you will find that their career choices are almost comically risk-averse. Why don’t they channel their need for risk-taking into their careers instead?”  There is a sociology thesis in here somewhere.

Picture courtesy foxypar4 via Creative Commons attribution license

2 thoughts on “India observations

  1. raj

    Driving in Chennai is like moving thorough a maze of ambushes. You will never know what is going to hit you from what angle! I had huge issues when I moved to Chennai.
    Few things can’t be changed with the existing lawmen and mass attitude.

    With in few months I got used to the tricks. But I was always careful not to violate any written/unwritten rules. Positive attitude/instincts, attention to surroundings will help you.

    Driving in Chennai is definitely not for the weak.

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  2. kaushal

    True.. but i miss home constantly.. wish i was close to my family back home… i hate chennai even though I have lived there for 5 years..

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