This week when I was returning from Chennai to Bangalore, I decided to drive down with Mohan. While the Chennai to Bangalore flight is about 45-50 minutes, the driving distance from the Bangalore airport to my house is about an hour and a half. The drive from the office in Chennai to the airport is about an hour. Add an hour long wait at the airport and the total travel time is about five hours. The train ride between the two cities is about the same and so is the drive time. So I thought .. what the heck!
Driving on the interstate highways (NH -> National Highway) is a bit different than cruising on the Golden State freeway. It took us about an hour to reach the highway. The distance was probably no more than 10 miles but by the time you navigate through the typical traffic in an Indian metro and make your way around the numerous road construction projects, it takes that long.
The ride on the highway itself was quite interesting. The highway is a four-lane highway with two lanes headed in either direction. The road itself is very good with beautiful landscaping etc. One thing that struck me was the large number of trucks headed in either direction. These ranged from the traditional lorries that have been plying on the Indian roads for decades to spanking new 18-wheelers. When one truck is attempting to pass another, you can be stuck behind both these guys for quite some time.
Another thing that jumps out at you is the darkness. We were driving in the night and I realized that the street lighting is minimum. This starts to become a real pain when you realize that the trucks do not have or do not use their indicators and are not well lit themselves. So, how do they manage? Well, it takes two to drive these large monsters - there is the driver who is doing the actual driving and then there is his assistant who is hanging out the other window waving signs to the other drivers on the street in order to communicate the driver's intent.
Then you have the foot traffic - people crossing the highway at random points. I am not sure how Mohan was able to spot these folks and managed to avoid hitting anyone but I am pretty sure that I don't have this skill.
Signs along the highway keep reminding you of stuff such as "Speed Kills", "Go slow, your family is waiting" etc. But just as you start to feel good about these, you see a sign "Hospital Ahead. Emergency services for Accident victims".