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Speed Thrills, But Kills

Chloé Hirschhorn

    When I told people that I was going to visit India, the most popular reaction that I received was a comment on the traffic. 
It was rare that somebody told me about the poverty or the caste system, like Sara Dickey shares in “Lives in Madurai.” I was told there would be cows in the roads, which everyone would yield to.  I was told that drivers honk constantly to make sure everyone else knows they are coming, and that those with the least to lose are those who have the right of way.  I was warned of all of the deaths caused each day by traffic accidents.

    Walking off of the ship for the first time, I prepared myself to be bombarded by auto-rickshaw drivers.  I saw them from afar heading my way like a pack of hungry wolves.  There was a chorus of voices asking students where they were going.  I pulled out a piece of paper with the name of the place where I wanted to go on it, and chose a driver.  I asked him how much, he offered to take me out for the day. We settled on a price for three hours, and we were on our way.

    On the way out of the port, I noticed all of the large traffic signs.  Every fifteen feet was an “Accident Prone Zone.”  A few personal favorites were “Go Slow, Unless You Have An Appointment With God,” “Speed Thrills But Kills,” “No Safety Have Pains, Know Safety Have Gains.”

    The driver began to point out buildings and statues on the side of the road, explaining what each one was.  This was a nice gesture, but it would have been much nicer if he didn’t turn his body around 180 degrees to look at me as he spoke.  I quickly became comfortable with the dozens of near accidents that we encountered, and made a game of counting them.  I know that if anybody ever asks me about India, I will be sure to tell them about the traffic.

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