Runner versus Indian Driver
You are in a trance, running away in a dream. Good pace, breath in sync with your foot landing and your running buddy is sharing the latest gossip. All’s well with the world.
VROOOM! A maniacal driver just about misses knocking you off the road and maiming you for good. “Jaan le loge kya?” you scream. “Marne ke liye meri hi gaadi mili hain kya?” he yells back.
Welcome to road running in India. I can bet my last rupee that no Indian runner worth her salt would be exempt from this privileged experience.
Milind Soman’s Advice
Noted actor, model and Ironman Milind Soman once told me that everywhere else in the world one is advised to run on the opposite side of the traffic because you can see the oncoming vehicles and take necessary evasive action. In India it doesn’t work like that. Here, if you run in the opposite direction, the Indian driver will know you can see him and make no attempt to avoid you. He expects you to avoid him.
However, if you run with the traffic he will treat you like any other nuisance (a pothole or a slow kachua-chap vehicle or even a buffalo) and move aside and dart away while cursing you for good measure. What’s a few cuss words as long as there are no knockouts, eh?
Mayuresh Didolkar, an accomplished runner, once narrated an incident to me. He would run in the morning on a particular route and would see a girl, also running, at around the same time. No acquainting, no smiles, no passes made, they co-existed through disregard.
One bright morning when our man was out running, the girl showed up in front of him this time on a bicycle. She just brushed past him almost knocking him over. He was jolted but recovered soon and ploughed along.
A few minutes later he was almost knocked over by a cyclist riding from behind him. Much to his astonishment, it was the same girl!
She went a little further ahead, took a U-turn and tried to knock him over, Again!
Mayuresh, his presence of mind still intact, made a quick call to the local police station. The cops demonstrated unusual efficiency and showed up within 10 minutes flat and nabbed the girl. After much questioning at the local police station it came to light episode passes that the charming girl was suffering from some mental disorder. Truth be told, this kind a situation is an outlier and a solution for it is beyond the scope of this article!
Runners never miss an opportunity to condemn rash drivers. Our ilk is very quick to yell at inconsiderate drivers who have no sense of right of way! One wonders if our virtuous running brethren behave any differently when they are behind the wheel.
I don’t go into a rage in such situations. Not because I sympathize with the reckless and senseless clowns in vehicles. I just have a different take on the matter.
Indian roads, us Indian drivers and our delusions about the concept of right of way (biggest vehicle first, pedestrian last) are here to stay. It’s simply not worth the effort to try and change that. As any dyed in wool management consultant would say, don’t try to boil the ocean.
I do my best to avoid the situation. Usually I run in places where there is very minimal traffic. This could sometime mean a boring route. But then I will pick monotony over mutilation, any day. I once ran a solo one km traffic-less loop 29 times!
Next option is to run on the footpath. Now this is a teda one, literally and figuratively. Our footpaths are never predictable. You could bump into an encroachment, an abrupt end to the footpath or humans sleeping on it.
A footpath is better than a road with all the vehicles zooming around. A vehicle climbing up the footpath and getting you is a very unlikely scenario unless Sal boy happens to be driving it, In which case, you simply curse your luck. Or maybe you won’t even be around to do so!
If nothing else works and I have to run on a trafficked road, I look for at least one companion. A vehicle driver is less likely to be tempted to take on multiple humans. Besides, I always seem to be running on the inside of the road while my innocent companions are on the outside nearer to the traffic!
A sane non-runner once said to me – while I am driving, you won’t believe how tempting a target an early morning runner really is.
HAPPY TRAFFIC DODGING!
Sudhindra Haribhat is a regular marathon runner and one of the founder members of PUNE RUNNING. He can be reached at email@example.com