Kolkata Traffic Ain’t No Joke

KOLKATA, India — It’s not just me.

The assault on the senses that greeted me upon arrival in Kolkata — in the form of the vehicular-and-livestock whirlwind that comprises the city’s traffic — could’ve been ascribed to the newness of my surroundings.

But it could’ve also had some basis in actual fact.

My first hint of this was a sign I saw in Victoria Maidan. Located beside a road that bisected the urban park, a sign read, “Following traffic rules is easy. There are no big fat rule books. You just need to open your eyes. We care for you.”

There seemed to be an excess of motorcycles, too, though probably less so than in Jakarta. At top, a traffic-safety sign offers helpful reminders. (Photos by Bruno J. Navarro)

The New Yorker in me imagined what a Manhattan motorist’s response might be: “Up yours!”

Not to say that Gotham drivers themselves couldn’t benefit from a little more common sense and a little less road rage. Not a day goes by that I don’t see multiple traffic infractions walking more than five blocks just about anywhere in the five boroughs, but that’s a story for another time.

Although Kolkata’s traffic patterns are likely derived from a playbook of rugby scrums, there was a refreshing lack of daredevils behind the wheel. Maybe it was the sheer congestion that prevented any significant speeding, or perhaps it was the cows that could be found on any roadway at any time.

Wild, but not unsafe — at least not enough to dissuade a family of five from riding a motorcycle down the street.


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