It was a balmy Thursday night and we were on our way to a fine dining restaurant not too far from my apartment. Our friends picked us up in an Uber. It was about 7:40 pm so traffic was pretty much business as usual – not exactly rush hour. Cars typically go 20 mph in this traffic. There is no concept of lanes in Bombay as most of you know and two-wheelers are the worst offenders – they drive fast, rash and don’t obey most of the road signs and traffic laws. Picture a road with multiple lanes of cars (where there should be 2 max) honking every 5 seconds (to announce their presence), two wheelers zipping past you on both sides, stray animals on the road and pedestrians trying to cross (as they wave a hand or finger at you to not hit them). You get the idea right?
We were having a conversation in the car and were somewhat aware of our surroundings (wired into you if you were raised in a big city) when we noticed there was a scooter to our left with two ladies on it. Please note – Cars are right hand drive in Bombay and we drive on the “wrong side” of the road. Suddenly, the woman on the scooter lost her balance (hit a pothole or braked suddenly or tire skidded) and the next thing we know, the scooter fell on the right and both women were sprawled on the road. Our Uber driver had the presence of mind to both brake and swerve at the same time otherwise he would have rolled over one of the women. He missed one of them by about 15 inches. For a second, we were startled as it all happened too quickly. As we were looking out the window hoping the women were okay we got rear-ended by another car who didn’t expect us to brake. Ivanna was in the back seat and was sitting on the edge so she experienced some whiplash.
Our driver parked on the side and got out to assess the damage. The crowd that had gathered commended our driver for avoiding the woman on the road. Had he run over one of them even though it wasn’t his fault, the mob would have beaten him up – quite a regular occurrence in Bombay and other cities in India. The women were badly scratched up but okay overall. The drivers did not exchange any insurance information, no cops were called. Our driver got into the car and drove on after exchanging a few words with the guy who rear-ended us. At this point, he was visibly upset more so because the owner would be pissed and deduct the cost of repairs from his salary. We told him to call the owner and spoke to the guy and assured him it wasn’t the driver’s fault. He still yelled at the driver and told him “That’s why I tell you not to drive fast”. I know you’re a bit confused at this point – Yes, most Uber drivers here are just like cab drivers – they work for a company or an individual who owns a bunch of cars and these guys drive for that person/company and earn a salary. Maybe I will do a separate post on how Uber is different here vs. in USA. The rest of the drive to the restaurant was uneventful especially the 18 minute wait at the last stop light.