13.02.2017 14 °C
India bus journey trip.
I have only been truly terrified a handful of times in my life. These times have mostly been when I was rock climbing, the sudden rush from the fear of falling can, for a split second, paralyse you. This fear I can mitigate for the large part as I have pretty much full control of the situation and my actions. Today's experience on an Indian bus was one of the most terrifying experiences in which I had no control over whatsoever.
I genuinely feared for my life at multiple times during our 14 hour bus journey from Mysore to Kerala. I spent a large part of the trip figuring out the best position to sit in if we were to crash (which felt quite likely) so that I would suffer minimal damage. There are no seatbelts on any of the buses that I know of so holding a metal bar in front of me with white knuckles was my only way of protecting myself from catapulting through the front windscreen.
As we started the journey I noticed some key differences between driving in the UK and in India. My favourite difference, and the most dangerous of these, is the use of the invisible 3rd lane. Most roads in India are single carriageway and the need to overtake EVERYTHING seems to be the number one absolute primary importance to the driver. Enter the 3rd lane, it is technically the quickest way to overtake small transport (cows/scooters/tuk tuks) hence why every larger and quicker vehicle uses it. This results in the largest and deadliest game of chicken I have ever witnessed. Its an unofficial game of 'whoever's largest wins' and when 2 vehicles of the same size come together then it is a battle of wills. Only at the very last minute one will back down and concede defeat, millimeters away from a head on collision. This game of chicken lasts hour after hour after hour. Just as I thought it couldn't get worse enter my 2nd favourite difference between UK and Indian roads. I remember watching the film Speed with Keanu Reeves when i was about 13 years old but never imagined that I, 17 years later, would literally be part of it. Bus drivers try to avoid slowing down using any method available to them. Usually this involves copious amounts of increasingly frantic horn blowing or undercutting on dirt verges... why not, it all counts or the bomb goes off!!!
After 14 hours I manage to peel my white knuckles off the thin metal bar in front of me. I thank God (I can see why religion is popular in India) and get off the Steven King inspired journey. I got given the advice after the journey that the best way to deal with 'the fear' is just to 'let go'. I'm not sure if this was just a knuckle saving method or a mental hurdle I need to overcome. Either way i know me and this metal bar in front of me are pretty inseparable! Until the next bus journey and fear inducing trip, I can't wait!!