Getting around in India is not easy. The cities simply aren’t designed for people who don’t already know where they’re going. Buildings are not numbered, the hanging branches of banyan trees obscure landmarks, and some streets have two names, a familiar name and another name bestowed by politicians. I have spent many hours wandering up and down Bombay streets trying to find a certain building, only to learn in the end that I’ve already walked past it at least three times. Whenever I venture to someplace new, I leave home armed with the name of the neighborhood I’m going to and at least one well-known building near my destination.
Another obstacle to easy transportation is the roads themselves, many of which have all but dissolved under the steady stress of monsoon rains. I’ve practiced the art of timing my leap across a pothole with the approach of both another pedestrian and a car. Usually I manage to avoid rushing into either one.
With so many factors out of our control I have come to depend on the one thing within our control: a reliable vehicle. Last night I surrendered even that security. Sam and I took “the Kiney” out to pick up some dinner. We were in the middle of a major traffic circle when the scooter sputtered and stalled. The driver of the car facing us began honking angrily as Sam tried unsuccessfully to get the scooter started again. Yielding to the pressure of cars traveling in at least six directions– all of which seemed to be honking at us– Sam stood up and walked the scooter to safety, Fred Flintstone style, while I sat behind him apologizing yet refusing to step off into that madness.