Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Hiring a good driver in India

One of the things that is non-negotiable for me when we are in India is hiring a safe driver. I do this for two reasons - the first is because husband-ji is the worst driver on Earth (I literally refused him to drive me to the hospital while I was in labour); and also so that he can relax and enjoy our time in India, rather than being aggravated by being stuck in traffic. But honestly, the real reason is because everybody knows that we are less likely to be killed if we are sitting in the back seat!!!

India is an absolute mess when it comes to driving - Hyderabad in particular is incredibly dangerous. I honestly don't even know how people even survive going to and fro to work each day. It is totally overpopulated, drivers are aggressive, and people are in such a rush that they will not hesitate in running you over as they get to their destination. There is a serious problem with road safety. Now Hyderabad is building a metro, so hopefully that will ease up on the traffic - but as of now, it is a friggin' urban jungle that is spread thin to the maximum, both in people and patience! 

We have known several friends and family who have been in car accidents and even killed because of it. Not only that, but I am a bit skittish on the road in general, because my maternal grandparents were murdered in a car accident; and my paternal grandmother was left permanently disfigured by a car accident as well. I grew up with these stories, which is why I am a consciously safe driver. I do NOT want to die on the road!!!

Naturally, returning this time as a parent, had me a little freaked out about road safety...

In North America, there are rules. There is a road etiquette. Not to mention, every single child is required to be strapped into a car seat until they pass 65 lbs. If you do not put your child in a car seat, the police will fine you and they can even accuse you of child endangerment. It is taken very seriously.

In India...not so much! There are no seat belts required, and as many people can pile into a car as they want. There are traffic police standing around, who are notoriously useless crooks. They do absolutely nothing for road safety - they are just decorated and uniformed beggars! Ugh.

So, for me - it is crucial to find a good driver....for our family's safety.

On our previous trips to Delhi, we found an excellent driver. His name was Singh, (I called him "Singh-ji" of course..) and he was an elderly Sikh man who drove the most perfect white Ambassador car. He was an absolute gentleman and such a kind soul. He drove extremely slowly and everyone honked at him like crazy. He was a bit eccentric too - he drove with his pinkie fingers up in the air! I was very thankful that he kept us safe and he became my mother's personal driver on her business trips.

On this most recent trip to Hyderabad, we got another amazing driver named Ashok. He was a young handsome Telugu guy, who - in my opinion - was the best driver in Hyderabad. The way he dodged other cars was an actual talent. He was an incredibly mature driver for his young age, and he also became part of our family, in a sense. We hired him for 8 hours a day, for almost a month. He adored Maya and always got her presents and sweets. He loved to listen to Akon, which I thought was hilarious. He also drove me places by myself and really took me under his wing. By the end of the trip, we were really sad to say goodbye to him. He was like a brother to us.
(Note: If any of you need a driver in Hyderabad, I will gladly give you his contact information!)

I will never forget these drivers, as they kept our family safe. I think of them as part of our family.

Unfortunately, on this recent trip to Hyderabad, we got into a frightening car accident - on the one day where we used another driver who was not Ashok. Just like that run-in with the awful tailor, I can't stress how important it is to hire a safe driver!



  1. That is horrible that so many of your family members have been so severely affected by car accidents! I totally get why you would be very concerned about safety, especially as a mother. When my husband and I went to India last, I was pregnant with my daughter, and I assumed the husband would be the one freaked out (after all I grew up in India!). Turned out I was the one freaking out and gasping. At that point I had been away from India for only 5 years but that time was enough to get me unused to traffic on Indian roads. If and when we visit again, I am going to be be super vigilant like you!


    1. Ha ha ha.....ya I think it's a "mom thing" to be freaked out about road safety...
      My paternal grandma was permanently disfigured particularly on her face - she had to have facial reconstruction surgery. She always used to say, "Before the accident, my skin was so beautiful, I had no scars". Of course by the time I arrived, I just thought they were wrinkles, but she was always self-conscious about it. It made me really scared to grow up with the after-effects of it. Also my mother's parents were killed in a car wreck, leaving her an orphan. So because of a single accident, we know nothing from her side of the family. In an instant, everything can change!

  2. @Alexandra

    Delhi is notorious for road rage and I guess it is the same with other metros of India like Hyderabad which are rapidly expanding. Parking and traffic is major cause of fights in Delhi. Delhi has more vehicles rest of the three big cities Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai that is what I read somewhere.

    There was a time when people traveled on bicycles in India and those with scooters were considered rich people. The trusted Bajaj Scooter was the vehicle of the common man. Most middle class families in India have fond childhood memories of piling up a single scooter and travelling to far off places. The Bajaj scooter was such a prized possession that it was handed down from father to son like ancestral property. In those times there were very few cars on roads. A man with a car was like a billionaire. Then came Maruti the small car for the middle class. Even then very few could afford it. The real thrust came post liberalization in the 1990s. People had more money in the pocket and most importantly things could be bought on installments. Suddenly, the middle class dream of owning a car became. In India even now if you buy a car it means that you have moved up in life. It is an achievements of sorts as far as social status is concerned.

    However, roads though wide, were not prepared for the deluge of cars. Suddenly there were too many vehicles on the road. Houses/colonies had very little space for parking because nobody could imagine that they could own a car someday. India is still not prepared for modern traffic and, therefore, it has led to somewhat casual attitude towards driving. Delhi metro has made live easier but the pressure on road has not decreased considerably. Delhi's pollution levels are also high and it is time that we do something about it. The government introduce CNG (compressed natural gas) as an alternative fuel for autos and buses some fifteen years ago which led to some decrease in pollution, but the situation has become bad due to increase in the number of private vehicles. The traffic system needs a major overhaul.

    1. Wow that is awful....when I was in Delhi I did not think it was that bad, but then we did not travel that far. In Hyderabad we are going from each end of the city to see relatives, it was a lot. But the worst I ever experienced was actually in Bangalore - the grid-locked traffic makes such a pleasant city so unlivable.
      It is true that a car is seen as a sign of wealth. In our families, nearly every newlywed gets a car if their parents can afford it. But really, just for two people it is silly. Now in Hyderabad, many of the MNC's are doing this carpooling van where the company will come and pick you up, but again you get stuck in traffic.
      In New York City, I found the subway system to be incredible. You can travel to any corner of the city, there is a station every two blocks, and it is relatively affordable. Unfortunately, New York is a newer city so they can do those types of things. In Hyderabad, building the metro had caused even more traffic and it has taken years to build. I don't even know if it will help, because the population is just too big.

    2. You have not traveled in Delhi Metro I presume. It has revolutionized the way people in Delhi travel. It is clean, efficient and comfortable. A welcome relief from rickety old buses in which people are packed like sardines. Though it is a little expensive but it has made travel possible between far off corner of delhi. Now, you can also travel from delhi to satellite cities of delhi like Gurgaon, Noida and Ghaziabad. Now, we can travel to those places which were hitherto considered inaccessible due distance and maddening traffic like old delhi. Who could have thought that one could travel from deep south of delhi to Chandni Chowk in old delhi, do the shopping and travel back.

      Still the number of cars do not decrease because of the prestige attached to cars and ofcourse people who are used to travel by cars find the rough and tumble of public transport uncomfortable even if it clean like metro. After all metro allows you travel in air conditioned comfort but it is crowded. It has expanded phenomenally over the years and connecting more and more parts of delhi.

      Some thought it was not possible to have something as sophisticated as metro in India but due to better planning and hard work of the metro authorities, it has become possible which goes to show that where there is will there is way.

      There are few things India has done very well. One is organization elections for this huge, diverse country with registered voters more than the population of Europe efficiently. The Kumbh Mela at Allahabad where millions of people visit after every twelve years for a holy dip. Believe it or not a temporary city is build on the river bank to accommodate a population equivalent to Paris or London. It the biggest human congregation anywhere in the world and also a gigantic task of man management. If you get the time in your next visit to India and the Kumbh Mela is on, do visit Allahabad. Delhi metro is the latest achievement. It makes you wonder why when we can achieve certain tasks, we are found lacking in others.

  3. Oh Madh Mama, I just love your blog so much! Even if I don't know you personally you have influenced me and my life a lot, and you really encourage me to believe in my European-Indian relationship.
    I just came back after a month long visit with is family in Chennai and it was just fantastic. (Fantastic in that crazy way India is supposed to be.) The way you have been sharing about your MIL and all the relatives helped me to understand things much better.
    Keep on writing!
    Lots of love

  4. Hi!

    I've been a long time lurker on your blog and commenting to say that your strategy is spot on. Finding a good driver is difficult in India and once you find one they're worth their weight in gold. Car seats are available here and I think it's worth the investment if you're going to be visiting here frequently. Sudden braking, rear-ending, and minor bumps are so common that we put our son in one even though people look at us strangely when we stop at signals.

    I love your blog and even though I'm from a more or less traditional family, everything you write about is so relatable. Thanks for your lovely posts. :-)


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