I quickly discover I'm not crazy about rickshaws. They are quintessential to Asia and are no less than a partially enclosed three wheeled tuna can about as stable as an egg. The exhaust pipes purge dirty smoke. The drivers are generally obstinate opportunists, overcharging by two to even three times the real price and still treating you like you ruined their day. So, one week of this and I decided with all my previous training riding scooters in Bali and Thailand I surely could take on Indian traffic- a wild mix of buses, cows, cars, rickshaws, scooters and dogs all pressing through with their own plan of direction and timing. It turns out, it was all I needed, with the scooter came freedom! Freedom to become one with the chaos.
There is a language to be learned here. Hindi is one of them, yes. But there is another. The all pervasive horn. Forget traffic rules other than an occasional stop light. On the road it is more like a free for all with the horn as moderator. The horn says "hey there" or "I'm on your right," or my favorite, "NOT stopping!" Some of the endearing phonemes of this unspoken language include the short and quick beep, a lengthy succession of beeps, and the long hard blast of sound that will make the ears wince. Whatever the message, everyone has something to say. Don't be offended and keep your cool. This is India and it's hot, loud and sometimes kind of stinky. And if you're walking, definitely don't forget that pedestrians DO NOT have the right of way.
My neighbor and yogini compatriot is Reina, a spicy little pistol of a personality from Venezuela who has become my inseparable back seat driver. We weave and speed all over the city making our own rules. In India as well as all of Asia you can see an amazing amount of passengers and baggage of all kinds being transported on these little bikes. We joke that back at home it would take a day off work, three friends and a car to move a piece of furniture whereas here they would just strap it on the back of the bike, load up the family including the dog and head off on the scooter. Job done.
There is also a helmet "law" that seems to be the only reason a cop would ever pull you over to claim some rupees and write you a ticket. That is, if you stop. They stand in the street on foot and try to wave you down. We have found the best way is to feign a stop and then gun it (full throttle is a ridiculously slow build up to 40kph, which could almost be outrun on foot) then weave a bit as the cop scrambles to take a photo of your license plate with his 90's era cell phone. This irreverent act generally keeps us from shelling out an extra 100 rupees and having to stop. Reina for some reason doesn't want to buy a 300 rupee helmet which is more like a prop than a safety device anyway so we continue about like Thelma and Louise do India. Don't get the wrong idea, we stop every once in a while and pay up. It's usually pretty entertaining because immediately we are surrounded by ten Indian onlookers, generally men, all joining in and commenting on the bust. I have also heard that the law really only requires the driver to have a helmet but they like to pull us over any way. I haven't looked it up for myself. I prefer the lawless lifestyle. Lawless and spiritual.
Now you know.
Here we are, three blondes on a scooter in India- American, Venezuelan and French.