Car horns honk. Motorbikes beep. Tuk-tuks toot. The wave of sound winds down as the steel herd halts for a red signal, then builds again when the traffic light turns green and the swarm surges forward.
The pack pushes through the streets of Delhi as if it was performing an abstract dance – one that’s been choreographed and long rehearsed, given the ordered chaos it presents.
The moment one bike creeps up and veers off, another seamlessly slips into its space. When oncoming traffic takes on the appearance of couples gliding to the tempo of a Viennese waltz, vehicles spilling with more than their mandated maximum capacity use the opportunity to leap-frog ahead of lumbering buses and a buggy filled with curious canvas-covered kids.
When I compliment our driver on his mastery of the dance, he shares with us that it’s really 25% skill, 25% of his foot on the brake, and 50% luck that allows him to maneuver safely through the city. His small statue of Ganesha on the dashboard makes me smile.
It reminds me of the patron saint of travelers displayed in a beloved uncle’s car when I was a child. Uncle Al drove a limo in New York City. He swore that St. Christopher had saved his life many times. Given the close calls we’ve had so far, it appears Lord Ganesha, the remover of obstacles, is doing his part as well.
It doesn’t need to be rush-hour for roads to ring with a rhythm that is jaunty as a jig and, at the same time, as elegant as a classical ballet.
The traffic moves to an erratic, pulsing beat plucked on the strings of a finely tuned bass fiddle while on the sidelines, like perfectly placed notes tied together in a grand opus, the sidewalks are punctuated by pedestrians,
trimmed with tenacious tradesmen (and women),
and peppered with curious primates…
At some point it’s time for an intermission,
but only for as long as it takes until everyone is rested
and can rejoin the crescendo already jammin’ on the streets…
As a tourist, I see the dance. My foot taps to its tune. I join in – fascinated by it.
Would I feel the same if I were one of the 18.6 million people living in Delhi and sharing this journey everyday? That’s a question I’ll leave you to ask someone yourself. You see –
I’ve already moo-ved on to Agra…