Whiplash

Elizabeth Schubert - India


October 12, 2015

Driving in India looks like a scene from Fast and Furious, except picture rickshaws everywhere and more cows.  There is no such thing as a lane in India; most streets don’t even have lines.  One direction of traffic uses 2/3 of the road on their left side, and the other direction uses 2/3 on their left.  Now if you’re good at math you can understand the predicament.  My neck is constantly sore from being jerked around as we speed around cattle and slow-moving trucks, while avoiding oncoming traffic.  I finally figured out where the horn is (pulling on the blinker as if you are flashing your bright headlights), but that doesn’t make it any less startling when it’s blared every two seconds, usually at a motorcycle we are about to hit.
 
At the beginning of PDT, we were warned that we would be having a lot of down time; life is a lot less micro-managed as it is in the US.  So I was prepared for that.  But in India, life moves a lot like the traffic does: in sharp, rapid movements.  I come home from school, told that I have a lot of down time before dinner.  Then, I hear shouting “Chalo, chalo”, or “let’s go, let’s go”, and before I know it I’m being rushed out of the house, into the car, and onto the maniacal roads.  Plans change more rapidly than the direction of the wheels.  Sometimes we leave 45 minutes behind schedule, lazily going out of the door, and sometimes it’s as if the fire alarm just went off and we need to grab our valuables.  I guess this kind of adaptability is a good skill, and I’m trying to be flexible.  But I still get whiplash with every jerk of the car and every unannounced change in schedule.  My neck gets sore between having the time of my life and wanting to book my flight home.  The answer to the question “how are you”, changes with every second all I can muster is “fine”.  Crossing the street, I have just gotten used to looking right-left-right, but occasionally a motorcycle will come shooting down the wrong lane of traffic and cut me off in my tracks.  I find it hard to adjust because I can’t yet identify what I need to adjust to.  I’m trying to just sit back in the car and let the driver deal with the bumpy roads, but it’s impossible to relax when my brain is being tossed around my head.
 
I don’t have any silver lining, no inspiring conclusion to provide.  All I have is a sore neck and aching disquietude.  Maybe I will understand more once my neck permanently becomes a rubber tube, so I can bounce back and forth with more ease.  But for now I guess I’ll just wear my seatbelt.    

Elizabeth Schubert