When four people want to ride in an autorickshaw, someone has to sit up front, one cheek on the driver’s seat, arm around the driver to keep from falling out. With three girls as my fellow passengers, front-seat duty was mine. And here’s what I saw, with my camera held at exactly the level of the auto driver’s eyes:
I’ve seen a similar banners on taxis and autorickshaws around the country, taking up precious visual real estate one would expect to rely on to see the massive trucks bearing down on you with no intention of turning. This particular banner read “Al Lazam” (the driver’s name? His favorite soccer team? Free advertising for his brother’s restaurant?). Fully one fifth of his windshield was blocked by this opaque blue bar — exactly the portion best utilized to see what vehicle is hellbent on ramming you next.
Is driving in this country not already dangerous enough?
With three girls in the back and me in the front, the auto driver decided to make me look cool. He grabbed my hands and put them on the motorcycle-style controls, the left hand working the brake and the right pumping the accelerator. For fully ten seconds I was in charge, discovering that the steering mechanism is surprisingly stiff and sensitive at the same time. The auto driver laughed along with me until he suddenly wrested back the controls and saved us from a car I had no idea was coming. The blue bar may have prevented me from seeing more than fifty feet in front, but somehow the driver was able to manage — ending my career as an auto driver as soon as it began, and saving all of us from becoming Keralan road sambar.
Another example of intentional auto blindness: