They just zoom past you on all fours. As in, from all the four sides. The green scooter guy dares to butt in just in front of your side mirror. He has three people squatting tight behind him. An elderly woman holding a kid and a five year old sandwiched in between. You just apply the breaks to let him pass through. And there you are contributing to the unruly traffic.
The second gear is down and as you negotiate a pothole, a grand convoy of three bikes try to slip in on the left. There is just daylight between the car and the parked SUV. It’s whats popularly known as cycle gap. When you just thought you succesfully negotiated the daring family man, you are stalled once again by the Valentino Rossis of Madras. Back to first gear and the pothole means you rev up to more than 2000 RPM wondering if you are really that bad a driver.
It’s all smooth again and the car is making the perfect noise on third gear. A couple of rickshaws have adopted right hand drive and create chaos in your mind. They just took a free right in front of you and you had to hit the breaks hard, hold the clutch and come to a full stop. Silence follows and you are authorized to move again.
As you digest all the swear words and the occasional Oram Pos, you become one among them. Then driving in this city is as electric as it is watching it from the sidelines. By now it’s a guilty pleasure and then you feel at home on the roads of Madras. The fifth gear is just a showpiece.