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roaming the world and enjoying the scenery...

Hiking in the Himalayas

Monks spinning prayer wheels in Mcleod GanjThe webpages from our Dharamsala trip are online and rarin’ to go. This last week has been really weak on the blog entry front, and I’m worried that trend might continue as we enter the holiday season of things.

We did have an exciting event this last weekend, as we went to downtown Mumbai for dinner with the parents of one of my students. The interesting thing about it is that the husband happens to be the 34th richest man in the world (this after having his net worth drop by $42 billon last year. Yes, you read that correctly. He’s only worth $10 billion now). When all is said and done, however, he and his wife were delightful hosts and we had a fabulous time.

But that doesn’t excuse me from neglecting my internet duties now, does it? Until I get back into the real swing of things, go take your mind off your other problems and check out all the fun we had a few weeks back!

Sufferin’ through a cyclone

The winds are howling, the rain is pouring, and the locals are battening down the hatches. We are not supposed to get rain any time between October and May, so the torrential storms we’ve had are really unusual. I didn’t think too much about it, until I read the news today (oh boy): Cyclone Phyan – the first in 67 years – is smacking the area!

Seeings how we lived through an earthquake in the Himalayas just a few weeks ago, this is a pretty cool follow up to that natural event. Guess after last year’s horrific events around Thanksgiving, we consider flooding to be a welcome break.

And because I am such an astute and interested student of all things, I found myself wondering what in the world a cyclone was. As it turns out, cyclone is just another name for a hurricane or typhoon, or, as I like to refer to it, a non-frontal synoptic scale low-pressure system over tropical or sub-tropical waters with organized convection and definite cyclonic surface wind circulation.

There’ll be a quiz on Friday – if the school is still open!

Wine shop man come, is go?

Translated from Hinglish – “The delivery person from Deepak liquor store is here at Kiara. Are you expecting him, and would you like him to come up to your apartment?”

Since many of our purchases are made via delivery (groceries, medicine, pizza, photo prints, etc), we get a phone call with this phrase every time a delivery peon comes to the door (and yes, they are really called peons here).

That’s just one example of the funny mix of Hindi and English (Hinglish) that takes place as we try to communicate with our building guards. When we need to turn on the filter in the pool about 20 minutes before the kids go swimming, we have to tell them to “Make pool on.” If I am not going to be on the school bus, “602 no go bus.” Or if looking for someone in the building, “Is 301 sir come?” I love being called sir.

Indian perspectives on life in Mumbai

ManFromMatungaThe newspaper we subscribe to, the Times of India, is often an interesting way to get an insight into how Indians view their own country. On the way to our Himalayan trip a few weeks ago, I stumbled across an opinion piece by a man named Bhavin Jankharia in the TOI.

Since he is a regular contributor to the paper, and the article is an interesting read, and there are many other pieces that he’s written on his site, and he has a facebook group that you can check in on, and I felt like posting today, here is a link to the article: Hardship Allowance for Living in Mumbai? Really?

Trick or Treat

Halloween Kids 2009We had our traditional Kiara Halloween fest last night, with a ton of kids from school visiting and a bunch of parents doing the same. The young ones roamed up and down the stairwell, going from room to room collecting goodies, while the old ones congregated in one apartment, enjoying adult beverages and even special jello!

Halloween 2009 dadAfter the tricks and treats were done, the kids came to our place to watch Charlie Brown and Monsters Inc. All reports indicate that they were well behaved, even with the sugar high they were sporting.

And the Stutz costumes? Susan wore her Boo!! T-shirt and kept the home fires burning, Breck was Billy the Kid from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Alea was an Emo (not Elmo, but Emo) and Dave played a suave Hugh Hefner.

Carving up the pumpkins

Carving the pumpkinsSince Susan is hosting a book club meeting tomorrow night, we figured we’d get our jack o’lanterns done a few days early. Our maid had picked up a few (greenish yellow) pumpkins from the market, and a neighbor from downstairs brought up carving magazines and stencils (I kid you not).

Oh, in case you were wondering – here’s a little bit of international Halloween trivia to keep handy: Indian pumpkins are MUCH easier to carve than Serbian pumpkins. They are soft and scoop out with very little effort.

In any case, there were some scary faces, a stenciled-on spider, and Breck even carved his very own pumpkin for the first time – a zombie! Aside from the cheesy (pumpkin) pi tattoo I gave mine, the evening was a success. Plus we’ll have lots of roasted pumpkin seeds to eat!

So now we are all set for the girls coming over to talk about “People of the Book.” I won’t be attending, but just for the record I thought the end of the book ruined the whole thing: how in the world could he have recreated – perfectly (except for the wrong skin) – the book. Silly, silly, silly, and there goes all pretense of reality for me.

Oh but wait, this post is about pumpkins. OK – so this is what they looked like in the end. Now we’ve gotta see if they last until Saturday!

Final Faces

Ganesh finally gets online

GaneshIt has been a while, but I finally have finished up all 4 Ganesh immersion pages. There is some good stuff here, lots of which didn’t make it into the Facebook spread, so check out the better-late-than-never edition of this holiday.

And yes, I am away this week with Alea on our Week Without Walls trip, but though the wonder of the Internets I could schedule this in advance! How technological are we these days!

Free verse Friday – Oktoberfest ’09

Photo by Martin Reinsmoen

Photo by Martin Reinsmoen

With apologies to Nat King Cole and other singers of “O Tannenbaum”

Oktoberfest, Oktoberfest
It’s fast approaching this way
Oktoberfest, Oktoberfest
A time for all to come play

Good times do always there abound:
Beer, schnitzel, brats, and oompah sounds

Oktoberfest, Oktoberfest
Come eat and drink on Saturday

Oktoberfest, Oktoberfest
I’ll have my little hat on
Oktoberfest, Oktoberfest
I’ll wear fake lederhosen

Though German pictures all will show,
Alas, few women here have dirndls

Oktoberfest, Oktoberfest
Despite our clothes we’ll have fun.

Oktoberfest, Oktoberfest
This year we’ve got kazoos
Oktoberfest, Oktoberfest
We’ll have the hookah too

On Kiara’s vast rooftop expanse
We’ll drink and do the chicken dance

Oktoberfest, Oktoberfest
I hope we don’t get rained out

Band concert


Alea warming up on the saxophone

Alea playingAlea’s band played for the school last week, and did a bang up job. It is so fun to hear her grow as a musician (and a little scary how fast she is doing it!).

She has gotten herself involved in the on-going middle school drama production, and is spending lots of time after school practicing with that club. She is growing into such a mature young lady!!

Plus she’s doing ok in her math class, but I think that’s because she’s got a great teacher!

Heading downtown

No BullNew pictures on the webpage from our trip downtown last weekend to visit the Prince of Wales museum (I mean, of course, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya as it has been renamed).

We had a blast and saw some sights, but for me one of the most enduring images is the one that greeted us as we made our way towards Mumbai’s newest engineering miracle.

How far along in its journey from being an emergent third world country does a nation have to be to explicitly ban oxen pulled carts from the freeways?

It’s a trap!!

Driving home from school the other day, some fellow bus-riders and I were astounded to see a convertible Porsche 911 pulled up next to us. There are a number of fancy cars tooling around Bombay – I’ve seen Hummers, BMWs, Mercedes, Bentleys, and even a Porsche Cayenne – but a low-slung car is kind of a silly vehicle to take over the potholed roads here.

He took off like a jet when the light turned – kind of crazy considering the people, cows, cars, bikes, rickshaws, etc that lumber along the road. We figured that we’d seen the last of him.

As we headed on towards home, however, we passed through a super straightaway that is famous for being a speed trap. Policemen will set themselves up with a mounted radar gun, and then flag down cars that zoom along the one piece of road that is actually built for going fast.

Cop Stop

Now, the police used to do this in Serbia too, and I always wondered why people stopped. It isn’t like they have cars that will chase you down. At this area, though, the road continues to either a toll booth or a hairpin turn of 170 degrees, so all they do is have another set of cops at both places ready to nab jackrabbits. Plus the fines are only between 2 and 10 dollars!!

And, who did we see as we lumbered up to the hordes of police (and a tow truck)? That’s right – you can even see the Porsche being pulled over in the photo. Instant karma, baby!!

(Or, as Uncle Rob puts it, “How’s that karma suit ya?!”)

Division of labor

Division of laborNow that the monsoons are pretty much over, we had the water-damaged areas of our apartment repainted. A three-man crew came to take care of the job, and I just had to laugh at how they went about doing it.

This being India, they didn’t bring anything other than paint and brushes: they asked us for dropcloths, ladder, tape, sticks for stirring, etc. They requested newspaper, and luckily we had two days’ worth in the house (we thought it would be used for floor protection!).

Of course, there also has to be a bureaucratic breakdown in who does what. That is one of the maddening infuriating frustrating interesting things about life here: there are usually many more chiefs than Indians (no pun intended).

If you want something done, it usually has to go through at least three layers of hierarchy before an action is actually performed. There are people whose job – literally – is to take orders from others and then pass them on to underlings. That’s it.

And forget about doing work that is ‘below your pay grade.’ Never will happen. If a ‘peon’ is supposed to be doing the work, and you are just standing around waiting for him to show up, taking the initiative to get the job done rarely even crosses the mind. So much for the can-do attitude!

So – it was entertaining as anything to watch the painters at work. Two guys scraping and priming and painting – and one guy reading the newspaper. All day long. Excellent.

Mount Merry

Mount Merry(insert inappropriate pun here)

Now that you’ve gotten that out of the way, you can enjoy the picture I saw the other say heading home. The neighborhood basilica, built on a hill, is called “Mount Mary” – which is actually an even funnier combination I suppose.

But in any case, this new sign built near our new wonder-bridge is supposed to be pointing us to the Mount Mary basilica (where, incidentally, the Bandra Fair noted in the previous post took place).

Whatever, it made me chuckle…

I’m not going to go into all of the theological implications of how this might impact the story of the virgin birth or anything like that – I’ll leave that up to your imagination. Instead, I’ll end this post with a little joke my dad(!) used to tell:

Why did Popeye want to beat up the Pope?

Because he heard he went to mount Olive.

(and unless you know anything about this and this and recognize the double entendre, the joke will not be funny at all – and it isn’t that funny to begin with anyways…)

Double entendre

Bandra Fair

Breck and I went to the Bandra Fair last weekend (the yearly event that we visited as a family last year) for a little guy time together. I decided deliberately not to bring a camera, as I find that can become the focus (ha ha) of what I’m doing, and I wanted just to hang out with him.

We did bring a Flip video camera, though, a device a little larger than a mobile phone, and shot a bit of video. Not too much, but enough to give a taste of the event. Enjoy a quick look at the Bandra Fair!!

Workin’ at the car wash

Mumbai has a bit of a pollution problem, it is true. There are some piles of refuse scattered here and there, people’s trash (and human waste) can be found everywhere, and the great outdoors is often used as a communal garbage pit.

But that’s not to say that folks don’t take pride of ownership. I think most want to keep their motor vehicles clean, and we see evidence of that on our way to school in the morning.

There is one spot where, during the monsoon season, the sewer overflows with regularity. And, every time it does, we pass a lineup of cars and rickshaws parked, their owners scrubbing them down. In the backed up sewer water. Words fail me at this point.

Mumbai car wash

Musings from a soggy rickshaw

On the way home from volleyball practice this morning, my rickshaw got caught in a monsoon downpour and the ride took a bit longer than usual. I had a couple of random thoughts along the way (and some from other recent rides), and just figured I could string them all together into a post:

  • We – pretty much anyone who reads this – have life so good and take so much for granted. At an intersection, a girl came up begging, and when I gave her a half-full bottle of water, you would’ve thought she’d just won a grand prize. I suppose the combination of getting clean water to drink plus a bottle to add to the recycling collection was really noteworthy for her. Think about how much a half-liter bottle of water (that someone else has already drunk from) would mean to you…
  • It is funny to see what we spend our money on. A rickshaw in front of us had a brand new good-luck charm hanging from its rear bumper. Many vehicles buy these charms every week: they are nothing more than a string with some green peppers, a yellow lime, and a tiny chink of coal. I wonder what I spend my heard-earned wages on that makes other people shake their heads.
  • People sure seem to spit a lot here. I bet diseases like swine flu and tuberculosis wouldn’t spread so fast if that wasn’t the case.
  • Traffic doesn’t rely much on rules and policemen. When there are big jams, the most effective way to break them up (after everyone has honked for about 10 minutes and gotten no where) is to have private citizens get out of the cars and direct the traffic.
  • Rickshaw and taxi drivers use water from backed up sewers to wash their cars. On the same note, big trucks that have hauled manure are much more olfactorally potent when you are sitting next to them in a windowless vehicle.
  • Dogs that wear raincoats during monsoon usually are better fed and cared for than are the people walking them.
  • Sleeping on the streets usually involves lots of plastic during the monsoon.

First Day of School = Cancelled!

Swine flu reared its ugly head in India, as the city government of Mumbai closes all schools for seven days.

We got back in town late last week after a super summer vacation: we’ll certainly write more about it here. How surprised were we to hit the airport and find all sorts of medical checks established at the border! We had to fill in forms, have our temperature taken by a ‘thermal scanner,’ and have a face-to-face meeting with a doctor (or at least some guy wearing a white lab coat) before being allowed to enter the country. But even this craziness was nothing compared to the panic that we’ve felt over the past few days.

As one of our coworkers noted, “I wish people had a grasp of basic statistics.” In a city of 25 million people, there have been 2 confirmed deaths from swine flu! 5 times as many people die every day falling off trains here! In all of India, there have been 18 fatalities – how many are there from starvation, polluted water, car wrecks, etc I wonder? In other words, the realistic threat of swine flu is really, really low.

But, as tends to be the case, hysteria often overrides reality, and so all Mumbai schools have to close. Which brings us to the current curious situation. Instead of meeting friends and jumping back into the swing of a school year, our students will be spending Monday through Wednesday of next week staring at computer screens. All teachers are preparing on-line lessons, so that the missed days are not really ‘missed’ in terms of learning lessons.

Of course, some classes adapt easier to this new format than others. My math lessons, for example, are probably easier to do electronically than Susan’s first grade “welcome to school” activities. Our drama teacher was lamenting his lot in life, but at the same time not unhappy at all that he was not the PE instructor who has to help kids learn to swim via the internet!

Alea and Breck have adapted to the change in plans with amazing resilience. They are looking forward to seeing their friends, of course, but understand that there is not much we can do (since they experienced the medical check at the airport and have seen the new “thermal scanner” in place at school). They get to take their on-line courses at the school itself (lucky them!) starting Monday: much faster internet, the fact that they get to hang out with other kids and have care provided, and their teachers get to keep an eye on how effective those lessons are! We’ll keep you posted as to how things go…

Life in a Mumbai garbage dump

Life at a Mumbai garbage dumpYeah – not really an enticing title there, I know. But this is one of those “real life” situations that I actually feel was a true opportunity to see something unique.

In a nutshell, we took a student group out for a day of community service cleaning mangroves, and at the end of our work we headed over to a garbage dump – and were shocked by what we saw.

The kids had never expected to see more than garbage trucks dropping off refuse, and were astounded to find that people made their living by sorting through the trash for things they could sell. It was certainly something that I’d only read about and had never expected to experience.

More pictures and descriptions at the main webpage – but suffice to say that it was quite a way to take stock of just how vastly different life is for some people, and just how lucky we are to have the life that we do.

Be the best that you can be

Razor Sharp SignOr at least be 13th best!

We pass this local college every day coming home from school, and I just had to get a shot of this sign (BTW – billboards are called “hoardings” here, in case anyone ever asks you). They’d had the same ad last year, and I never took a picture, but it is back for another round, and I got my shot this time.

I suppose there is a very specific demographic to which this university is appealing – MBA students who want to attend a college in not just any part of Asia (it has to be South Asia) and have a school that is good but not too good.

I do wonder how they decided to advertise as the “13th best” as opposed to “One of the Best” or even “in the Top 15.” Of course, 13 doesn’t have the bad luck connotations as it does in the West, but that designator is still somewhat funny.

Oh well. Seeing this reminded me that I have a ton of pictures from this past year that have not yet been posted (yes, including the Egypt trip, but that is moving really slowly right now). These last few weeks are killer, what with end of the year hoopla, goodbye parties, report cards, packing, buying a house (surprise!!), etc, etc,etc. I’m not sure how much of anything I’ll get to, but I did put together another “Life in India” photo montage for the webpage, so enjoy the photos!

A rickshaw built for 8

A full rickshaw!On our way home yesterday from Alea’s band concert (see tomorrow’s post for a poem and picture combination!), our family of four took separate rickshaws. We figured we had too much stuff and we’d just be too crowded in one, so the girls took off and the boys followed behind them.

Now rickshaws are often full of things other than people: just the other day one was stuffed with dvd players. On other occasions we’ve seen goats, vegetables, even a toilet being transported in these things. At a light near the school, though, we saw a great example how a rickshaw is meant to be packed!

There were at least 8 people in it (counting the driver), and they thought it was quite amusing that we wanted to take a picture (luckily I had the camera from the band concert). One lady – the closest one, dressed in black – did duck her head out of the photo, but I still like the way you can see just about everyone looking at us.

Breck in a rickJust to keep things fair, I also took a picture of Breck’s face reflected in the side mirror as well!

And, when the traffic started moving, we waved goodbye and sped off to our apartment, about a half hour (and $1.40, including tip) away, where we celebrated the successful concert with an order of traditional Indian KFC.

Christós Anésti!

That means Christ is risen in Greek and is the traditional Easter greeting. The proper response is Alithós anésti, which means Indeed he is!

Since we are celebrating Easter today – Orthodox Easter – it makes sense for us to use the Orthodox traditions, right?

The kids colored some eggs yesterday, the Easter bunny hid them last night, and we hunted them up this morning. I posted a few pictures from the goings-on on the webpage (as well as a quick glimpse of our newly-painted living room wall).

Enjoy the day – we are heading outside to so splash in the pool right now: it is starting to get HOT in Mumbai!

Bombay Traffic: Emergency Services

The rationale behind the Traffic in Bombay series grows from a couple of events that have happened in the past 2 weeks. The first of these gets written up today as a warning of your chances should you be involved in a road accident.

Motorcycle FamilyTwo colleagues were on their way in early to the school, when they came across a group of men standing around a tipped-over motorcycle. Seems the guy driving the bike had lost control, almost run into them (they were pedestrians), and wiped out. Now, there is a motorcycle helmet law, but it is very selectively followed and enforced (although this seems to be improving), so the guy was not in good shape. The passers-by had already moved him – there goes any consideration of neck or spinal injury – but he seemed to be moving all right: the big problem was that he was vomiting blood.

The two women asked if an ambulance was coming, and the guys all shrugged. They certainly hadn’t called one, no one else in the area had, and they were just standing around to see if the guy was going to die. Over the protestations of her driver, one of the women had the guys pick up the injured man and put him in the back seat (which luckily have plastic all over because of the two young kids in the family), where he proceeded to continue bleeding and vomiting.

WHO Traffic StatsThe driver took him to a local hospital – I guess the term would be ‘indigent’ or ‘state’ hospital – where the poorer people can get emergency treatment. When they got there, nobody came out to help the guy into the building (no crashing doors and clattering stretchers like in all the TV shows), so the woman and her driver dragged him into a waiting room.

She was very concerned about his status, having been trained as a nurse, as she was worried that he was bleeding internally – but no one in the hospital had much of a sense of urgency about them. (There are stories every day about people dying because A) they can’t get to the hospital in time, B) they are turned away from the doors because they are too poor, and C) the care is not adequate when they finally do get admitted somewhere.)

We have all been given a contact number for an ambulance service in Bombay – dial 1298! – but having seen the state of the emergency services, knowing that ambulances do not rate any special deference on the roads, and witnessing the ‘anything goes’ rules of the Indian roads, it is no surprise that the Indian rate of death from traffic accidents is among the highest in the world.

Bombay Traffic: Rules are fine, but Laws don’t count

Traffic SceneFor most people who have driven in India, there is a glaring omission in the “Rules of the Road” below. Where, oh where is the “Stoplights are Merely a Suggestion” rule? I decided to include it in the next chapter of Bombay Traffic, simply because – just like ogres and onions – there are many layers to that idea.

Stoplights are routinely ignored, leading to harrowing games of chicken, as the “Bigger is Better” rule comes into effect (and its corollary – “Momentum Determines Right-of-Way” – meaning that speed also comes into play). Vehicles will poke their noses into lanes of cross traffic, attempting to create enough of a bottleneck so as to allow them (and other jammed up drivers going the same way) to establish their right to cross the intersection.

Traffic CopsThe police, when present, are somewhat effective at stopping some of this, as no one likes to have to pay a small “fee,” especially when most of the rupees end up in the cops’ pockets.

A common sight is of a group of officers – sometimes including  women – sitting around on various corners, getting up from time to time to make a stop. They seem to especially like pulling over motorcycles, as they are easy marks for harassment. In any case, just having them around will sometimes discourage red-light-runners.

So with the obvious role of police in trying to stem some of the crazy driving habits, as well as the school’s dedication to following the letter of the law here, we found it curious that our bus drivers routinely blast through red lights and speed on the way to school in the morning, and asked them about it.

The response was hilarious in its simplicity. The drivers said, apparently in all seriousness, “According to Indian law, traffic regulations are not valid before 8am. We are not breaking the regulations, because they don’t apply before that time in the morning.”  What a great idea!

Bombay Traffic: Rules of the Road Part 2

Here are the next Big Five Rules of the Road, following on the heels of Bigger is Better:

  • Use Your Horn – In Bombay (and pretty much everywhere we’ve been in India), the horn is used as an all-purpose driving device. It warns someone you are coming, it tells people to get out of the way, it signals annoyance /anger/irritation/ happiness, and it gives drivers something to do as they sit in motionless traffic.
  • Lanes Are Pretty, Decorative Lines – but certainly not anything to take seriously. We have never, ever seen traffic pay any attention whatsoever to lanes. Granted, it can be difficult at times, given the varying state of disrepair of various highways and byways – to encourage people to stay in a straight line, but that certainly does not explain everything. A two lane road invariably becomes at least two lanes each way, and forget about maintaining lane discipline downtown. In fact…
  • HawkersFill All Space – At any intersection (especially), vehicles will bunch up in a very predictable manner. The bigger trucks, buses, and cars will bunch to the front, creating at least an extra lane of traffic. Then the rickshaws will swarm in, cramming themselves between the larger autos. Then the motorcycles and scooters inch their way through everything, up to the front of the line, then the bicycles do the same. Only then will the beggars and hawkers start making their way through the crowds, selling their wares.
  • Things Behind You Don’t Count – Once the lines start moving (amid a cacophony of horns), drivers concentrate on things that are in front of them. Once a vehicle has pulled ahead of another, it is as if a switch has been flipped, and the dude behind you doesn’t count. Cutting left and right in front of other vehicles is not a ‘bad’ thing, as everyone does it and everyone knows that – while mirrors sure can be decorated prettily on the sides of a door, they don’t serve any practical function!
  • Karma Rules – Surprisingly enough, however, real aggressive driving is a rarity. Certainly it has to do with the fact that there is no room to do anything supremely aggressive, but I personally think that the Hindu mindset plays a role as well: well, there’s not much I can do about this, the other driver deserves a bigger car/a better position in traffic/a shorter commute, and what comes around will go around. This also comes into play with safety features, as we regularly see drivers with no helmets, long sari scarves flapping in the breeze, 4 (or more) kids balanced on a motorcycle, and big trucks with no doors. Ganesh or Sai Baba or Allah or Jesus (as a person’s personal religious belief dictates) will watch over me…

Bombay traffic: Rules of the Road Part 1

Traffic is a never-far-from-the-front-of-our-attention fact of life here in Bombay. Our schedules and social lives (or lack thereof) revolve around the horrendous crushes of vehicles on the roads and the attendant long investment of time involved in going anywhere. There have been a few traffic-related situations in the past few days, so I figured a few entries (I’m looking at 5 parts at this point) outlining what the roads are like would be in order.

Today’s introductory topic concerns the number 1 rule of the road. This isn’t a rule in the sense of being ‘written down’ laws of any sort. This is just the everybody-follows-it regulation by which you have to abide. If you don’t, then you put yourself in a position of easily getting in an accident.

Simply put, this most important rule is Bigger Is Better. Traffic flow is regulated not by police, lights, lanes, or signs, but by the size of the vehicles – or animals – present. A rough pecking order would include:

  1. Cows
  2. Long haul diesel trucks
  3. Buses
  4. Elephants
  5. Horses, bulls, and oxen-drawn carts
  6. SUVs/minivans
  7. Cars
  8. Taxis
  9. Rickshaws
  10. Motorcycles
  11. Scooters
  12. People hauling items on handcarts
  13. Bicycles
  14. Pedestrians
  15. Dogs, cats, birds

Everybody knows these rules, and everyone follows them. Big trucks rarely slow down for anyone – but then again, no one expects them to and so usually gets out of their way. When that system breaks down, however, horrific accidents usually result (more about that in Part 5).

But usually, however, people are pretty willing to play the hand fate has dealt them. If you are in a rickshaw, you let cars and buses push you out of the way. By the same token, however, that rickshaw will not slow down at all for the family and grandma crossing the road.

While no one would claim to love the traffic, after a while, the mad melee becomes accepted and expected. The most difficult thing for us to get used to when driving in Thailand was that incoming traffic would actually yield to us on scooters – this is unheard of in Bombay.

But everyone stops for cows.