By: L.A. Kohl
Jan. 13, 2005
(published in the Wed., Mar 2 edition of the "Bull's Eye", Vol. 1, #19) One of our interns liked to say that India was the land where adventure FOUND you. If you remember from last week’s article, it had just found my husband big time.
The road their taxi was traveling on was a fairly typical Indian “highway”. Please don’t picture the new, four lane Hwy. 63 when I use the word highway. Think more of old Hwy. 63. The really old one, the one that only pieces and sections of now exist. The one with huge cracks and potholes, that lies mostly west of new Hwy. 63. Now, picture a highway similar to that, with huge diesel buses barreling along at 60 MPH, various taxis and minivans with blaring horns, bullock carts lumbering along at 2 MPH, pedestrians, rickety bicycles, rickshaws...maybe even an occasional work elephant. Of course all those later highway travelers have no lights, and it was now dark. And here we have three Americans in a taxi that wants to try driving on the wrong side of the road, and driving backwards. Driving in India is dangerous when you do it correctly...so what this taxi driver was doing was life-threatening. Tim, a twenty-something year old, later said that it was the scariest thing he’d ever experienced, and Tim travels places like Pakistan with nothing but his backpack and a “Lonely Planet” guidebook. Now maybe you can begin to grasp the severity of the situation a little more.
But how do you get a taxi from its spacey, Hindi speaking driver? They decided they had to convince him they were extremely displeased with his service, and they were going to find some other way home (problem was, they were in the middle of nowhere, in the dark, with possible criminals following close behind hoping to plunder them...not really any other options.) Once they got him off the road, they wanted him to open the trunk so they could get out their gear. When the driver put his keys in the trunk and opened it, Nate carefully reached up and snatched the keys out of the lid, while Tim and Shawn distracted the guy. So now all of a sudden they decided maybe they didn’t want to get their bags out after all...maybe they’d keep going. The confused driver shut the lid, and reached for his keys, only to find them gone. He started crawling around in the dark looking for them, while the three Americans hopped back in the taxi, with Nate in the driver’s seat and with the keys.
Ooo, was that guy ticked when he realized what had happened. He got in the passenger side slurring lots of choice Hindi words, and physically trying to get the keys back while Nate’s trying to get started down the road. It was not an easy task, as I’ve already mentioned the road conditions. On top of that he’s trying to see thru a crackly looking windshield, driving on the wrong side of the road for an American, and he’s got a delirious taxi driver kicking and swearing at him. The guys in the back were trying to help, but they were also trying to read a map and figure out where in the world they were, and where in the world they were trying to go, and trying to call us to figure out what we thought they should do...guess we’ll find out next week!