Madras · Myself

Shifting the Stick

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.


16 thoughts on “Shifting the Stick

  1. Ahh, I miss Madras. Of course the fifth gear is a showpiece, although on GST Road in stretches – it comes in handy :-)
    And on the Kotturpuram Road – except I once got “caught for speeding” near the Cenotaph Road junction; 50 rupees later, I was pardoned off, never to hit fifth gear in Madras again!

    Adi: Caught for speeding? :O


  2. hehehe
    “cycle gap” is a good one!

    yeah in the city traffic it is the most challenging to drive because of rash driving. Some company buses drive very very rashly . Then comes the people who follow rules , other who ignore and rest who make way for those unruly ones just to be safe on our side!!

    True 5th gear part, infact when i planning to get a bike my friend suggested never go for a bike with 5 gears for you may never get a chance to use it in city!!

    Finally,if you hv time take a drive in OMR you would be searching for 6th gear?it is one of expressways :)

    Adi: Yep, those sides the roads are good and pretty uniform traffic away from the city


  3. there is only one rule while driving on the roads of madras. anything is ogay as long as you don’t hit anyone…
    and the only chance i get to use the 5th gear is the madhya kailas road to tidel park. that’s an awesome road!

    Adi: Yep, the OMR is good. Anything is ok as long as you don’t hit anyone is a superb adage!


  4. You are home! :)

    But all this is so much fun that zooming on 80 on the stupid highway with no challenge. Che!

    To make up for this, AB says ” So long, suckers!” in Simpson style to every car he overtakes or “you’ve been Bolted” to every rival football college alumni’s car he overtakes. Or there is always: Ambi, paathu pa. Enga Mrs kku kovam vanda, suttuduvo!

    Or the Kazhadai Kasamaalu or WHATEVER!

    Adi: ROFL, Abi is too good!


  5. Driving in Chennai is easy . Its the driving in the US thats boring , what with no random cows or auto dudes to keep you awake :P

    Adi: True true!


  6. Haha.. Ensoy your drive in Chennai I see. I always believed people who have driven in India for a fair length of time should be really good at that Tetris game, where you turn blocks around so they fit in and complete the line? I am so reminded of that when I see two-wheelers slowly nudging their way into the smallest of gaps when they wait at the traffic signal.


    1. Completely agree to your “fifth gear is just a show-piece”.. Just that in my case no matter how traffic-void the road is, it never goes beyond the fourth. And there I was dreaming of setting the street’s ablaze when I decided I’ll enrol for the driving class.. :)

      Nice blog…


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