It is something us Brits all take for granted. Crossing the road in the UK is simple stuff, and a thing that we all do without thinking. But what happens when your world gets turned upside down. Not just upside down, but sideways. 360°, and shaken around. What happens when everything you know turns out to be wrong? What happens……..when you go to India?
To say crossing the road in India is different is a bit of an understatement- a difference that we definitely did not put enough thought into before our arrival here. Having been through the ordeal ourselves with little to no training before hand, the general consensus was that nobody should have to go through it alone.
As such, I was inspired to create a practical guide for anyone who thinks they might be crossing a road in India in the future, in a bid to improve safety and decrease nervous breakdowns in the future.
Step One: Look Right
This one might seem like a ‘no-brainer’, but for anyone from a country where they drive on the right, will prove a real godsend. The way we look when we cross the road is so ingrained into our brain chemistry that it’s almost a involuntary reaction. Because of this whenever you approach a road in India, you should be thinking to look right first, then left as you approach the second part of the road. This rule of thumb does run into problems when faced with certain situations. For example, we have seen on occasion that motorbike and rickshaw drivers driving alongside the pavement in the opposite direction of traffic. Although this rule isn’t perfect, it’s definitely a good starting point.
Step Two: The Hand
The Hand. Oh so simple, yet oh so elegant and effective at the same time. This trick is so simple its almost criminal. Simply put your hand up in the air with your palm flat facing the traffic. This acts as two signals to the drivers of the oncoming traffic. Firstly, it acts as a stop signal to the drivers. Secondly, it says to them thank you. Thank you for stopping. An extra bonus point to this step is to maintain eye contact. This this particularly effective if you direct your gaze to the car or other vehicle that is approaching you the closest. Look into their eyes. Look into their soul. Look at them with a look that says “Please don’t hurt me, I’m a good person”. This one we actually picked up from one of our hosts at SSLA, Nidhi, and we can’t thank her enough for it. That leads me nicely on to our next step;
Step Three: Follow a Local
If all else fails and you’re not in a rush, this trick works almost without fail, as long as there is a group of locals around. Wait around until a group of local people are going the same direction as you, and blend into the crowd with them. Copy their movements exactly. Stay Close. You might even pick up some bonus tips such as the one above in the process. One issue is what to do with yourself when you’re waiting for the crowd to gather. We’ve found that pretending to be on the phone is the number one technique.
Whilst this is only an introduction, and there is much more to learn about this modern art, I hope that this has been a good starting point for any road crossing beginners. Remember to keep on learning, and stay safe.