India: the road into Old Delhi

When I think back on that first taxi ride in India, it seemed to me, from the time it took, that Indira Gandhi Airport must have been about fifty miles from Old Delhi where the hotel was. Unless I was so jet-lagged and disorientated by the sub-continent that I had lost all sense of time, and I don’t think I had, then all I can conclude is that the driver took us a very long way round… all the better for his friend up front to give us some old chat.

After riding shotgun in our taxi for an extended period, the uninvited passenger gathered that not only was the taxi prepaid, so was our hotel. Although he gave every indication of being utterly convinced of his powers of persuasion, even he baulked at attempting to make some dumb tourists pay for another hotel, with no hope of refund from the one that was booked and paid for. The car stopped and he got out by the side of the road. I did not see how he indicated to the driver that enough was enough; perhaps the driver figured it out.

Shortly after his sudden departure, the front passenger door flew open. We stopped to close it. The driver banged it shut hard. Then he stood poking it with an expression of concern. My travelling companion took the opportunity to take up position in the front seat, alongside the driver. I suddenly felt conspicuous on my own in the back: a white memsahib lodged in solitary splendour on tiger-striped velour upholstery. I was told later that the front seat gave a good view of the road – from the gaping hole in the foot well.

Like magic, once the hard salesman was gone, we were into Delhi properly. Perhaps we had just been driven around and around the paddy fields and water buffalo until we caved in. If so, we had passed the first test. We reached another busy intersection and stop. I stared out of the windows. In front, a man was slowly rolling a ten foot concrete post across the crossroads, apparently unperturbed amidst the flow of other vehicles. The horn chorus has reached a pitch of communication frenzy and I guess a good proportion is directed at the man rolling the post. Behind us, the taxi has a bunch of plastic purple grapes dangling where the air freshener normally hangs. Traffic was being nominally directed by a traffic policeman in brown uniform. These officials do not object when our taxi dives past slower traffic, like rickshaws, by steering a path round them, directly into oncoming traffic. Myself, I am not so keen.

courtesy of BBC images

Posted on July 5, 2013, in Travel and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. ive always wondered how taxi drivers get away without wearing a seatbelt and what more how passengers in them do. ive never seen a taxi driver where i live wear one and they never tell you to buckle i was struggling to do it up and the driver said ‘dont worry im driving slow’ that mattered!

  2. Octavio R. Conner

    This is a circular, one-hour route — from Notre-Dame to the Eiffel Tower along the Left Bank, then back along the Right Bank. Or tailor-make your own plan, starting and ending where you’d like, and making any stops along the way that traffic will allow. Suggested stops are listed in bold on the list in “Taxi Instructions,” below (“petit arrêt” means “little stop”). To make it more of a party, bring a bottle of red wine and some chocolate to enjoy each time you hop out of the taxi (not in the taxi).

  3. The minimum age to drive in Germany is 18. Traffic drives on the right and passes on the left (not the other way around, as some Americans inexplicably think.) Seatbelts must be worn by all passengers. Children under 12 years old or shorter than 1.5 meters may not sit in the front seat unless they are in an approved child safety seat. However, you may not use a child safety seat in the front seat if there is an active airbag.

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