In Pondicherry, and probably in the whole of India, one of the first things you experience is the noise and chaos of the cars, motorbikes, buses, auto-rickshaws, trucks bicycles and pedestrians that jostle for space. I am told that 20 years ago, Pondicherry only had bicycles on the streets. Cars and motorbikes have been introduced and adopted so quickly that India’s infrastructure wasn’t able to keep pace with it. There are no traffic lights and only a few stop signs. Cars need to honk to tell each other that they are coming around the corner, that they are going to cross the street, to tell another vehicle to get their rear out of the way. Vehicles honk incessantly, all the time, day and night.
It is like a cacophony of birds, that rival only the multitude of crows that congress in the trees and call all day.
There is definitely a food chain too, where the bigger vehicles usurp the road from the smaller ones with a honk and a swerve. The ‘no honking’ signs put up by the police of transportation don’t do much to curb their noise making. Why don’t the cops put up some stop signs instead? Hah.
In December the UO is sending 15 students to the ashram for three weeks for an Alternative Winter Break experience. That is one of the main reasons I am here, to help organize curriculum and logistics, and I couldn’t be happier to be working on this project. Thinking about transportation for about 20 people has left me with mixed feelings. When you need to reserve a 20 passenger bus, it’s great. But a large influx of motorized vehicles has serious ramifications for changing the physical and environmental landscape of our cities.
I don’t drive; my bicycle is my car. I like it that way. It is a priority for me to live in a city where I can walk and bike or take a subway. Cars are expensive and bad for the environment, but I’m glad I don’t have to regularly dole out money to oil and insurance companies to get by. Oh, and you get exercise! And you don’t have to go to the gym!
The blog It Dawned on Me has a great post on what it was like to go a year without a car. The author concludes that the positives far outweigh the negatives.