I never used to.
In fact I used to look on in admiration as they roared past on their brightly colored superbikes decked out in matching leathers and helmets.
What changed my opinion?
7 years of driving in India!
Now I can’t stand them.
They meander across the roads thinking they are invincible and impervious to any road laws or even the laws of nature.
Every single scratch or dent on my car has been caused by an errant motorcyclist.
I have had a young boy sprawled across my windscreen, his scooter underneath my vehicle, after a head on collision caused by his inability to wait like everyone else at a red light, and come down the wrong side of the road, where I unfortunately happened to be driving, innocently minding my own business. After rolling off the bonnet and dragging his scooter out from under my car he phoned his Mum who miraculously materialized just 2 minutes later. The scooter was obviously of more value to her than her son as before enquiring after his wellbeing she demanded Rs2000 for repairs to the scooter!
I have looked on in horror as two grown men somersaulted 20 feet through the air because they had decided to take a shortcut at high speed up the inside as I turned left, ripping off the front left wing and wing mirror in the process. Amazingly, considering their attire of suit pants, cotton shirt and flip-flops, and needless to say, no helmets, they were unscathed! Fortunately for me it all happened in front of a policeman who soon dispelled the rapidly gathering angry mob, who were under the usual assumption in these cases, that the car driver had just decided to ram a motorcyclist for his own amusement. Unfortunately for me the repairs to my car cost me Rs25,000.
I have even been chased for 3 blocks by a motorcyclist who eventually blocked the road so I couldn’t proceed. Two minutes earlier, while I was waiting peacefully at the traffic signal, he had pulled up beside me inserting his motorbike in the narrow gap between me and the car alongside. Apparently when I drove off, the side of my, (very dirty), car had brushed against his white pants and left a mark. All this was explained to me in furious Kannada (the local language here) with lots of heated gesticulations and pointing at his soiled trousers. It took me a while to stop laughing and when I jokingly offered to buy him a bar of soap he wasn’t too impressed.
There are some things I understand and turn a blind eye to. 3-4 people on a motorbike? Some families can’t afford any other mode of transport. No protective clothing? Again it comes down to affordability.
What I can’t understand is stupidity. Why would you turn right from the far left lane without warning and across 3 lanes of traffic? Why would you drive on the wrong side of the road into oncoming traffic? At night without your lights on?
And the thing that bugs me the most?! Texting or talking on the cell phone while riding a motorbike! What are you texting? “Hi Darling, I am about to die”?
So many times I have had to take evasive action to avoid a motorcyclist swerving erratically from side to side, his head at 45 degrees to keep the phone wedged between his ear and his shoulder, while he gesticulates in the air with one hand to the unseen person on the other end of the phone.
I mean why? What is so important that it can’t wait for you to stop?
And then it struck me! Of course! I am in Bangalore, the home of outsourcing.
Whenever someone in the US or in Australia phones up their bank or insurance company they get put though to Manjunath or Shivkumar on his Hero Honda. All these guys on the motorbikes are working for call centers!