White Knuckle Death Race by Bus to Pondicherry


Just when I was feeling so self-satisfied that I had accepted the traffic conditions inĀ India comes a case of bus travel so extreme I fell back into panic and anxiety for a good portion of the trip. It started out in the usual way, merely honking a lot and heading into oncoming traffic at warp speed. But then as we were bobbing and weaving our way along the one lane highway holding 4 lanes of traffic, I looked out the window and noticed a man on a motorcycle fall off at great speed. He probably died. Really. I freaked out. It wasn’t clear if our bus had hit him or not. None of the other passengers that noticed seemed too overly worried about it a few minutes later, and our bus driver returned to his amphetamine fueled game of chicken. On the 4 hour journey to Pondicherry, we went off the road a few times to pass others and nearly toppled the bus on more than one occasion. Add to that our stopping for every tom dick and harry (make that every suresh, deepu, and amit) to the point that the bus was VERY overcrowded and I started to feel mighty claustrophobic.

Here and I thought I had become unflappable in this type of situation. Then life throws it back in your face and says “Start again, start again…” (that line for you vipassana fans out there).


  1. gabe says:

    Ah, developing world buses. After many years of exposure, here are Gabe’s simple rules for managing this kind of situation:

    a) Don’t ride the bus.
    b) If you think of riding the bus, see a)
    c) If your friends are riding the bus, pool your money and rent a car/driver (where you can control the speed and method of driving)
    d) No matter what my friend Marty says, riding the bus in the developing world is never romantic or engaging. See a).

    And, no matter how unflappably calm or centered you may feel in your life, I guarantee you, the bus experience *never* gets easier. I’m just glad you’re getting a chance to learn it there instead of in the Andes. :)

  2. livinghigh says:

    u know, i was laughing madly when i got dat sms from u this morning. lol.
    cudnt reply though, as i’m out of balance. :)

  3. tlitten says:

    …or learning Gabe’s lesson on mountain roads in Nepal in the dark in the pouring rain (my personal introduction to the joys of developing world buses).

    Stop scaring your mother!