|New Delhi Traffic: Dec. 8th
|Weve been ensconced in New Delhi at a trade show
IT Asia 95. New Delhi is such a change from Bangalore. Hard to believe but true.
This is the city of government. As such, all the difficulties that make life in Bangalore
unbearable, the smog, the noise, the traffic, are simply legislated away here. The only
thing they couldnt legislate away here is poverty. There are an enormous number of
bicycle rickshaws here, driven by young adults who literally pedal away their life. The
smell of marijuana is everywhere - the bidis (tiny cigarettes) are laced liberally with
ganja and heroin - it gets a driver through the day, but theyre usually dead by age
|Traffic here is entirely different from Bangalore. For
reasons that I havent fathomed, drivers here seem to be able to get through an
intersection without honking their horn several times. The streets are wide, and have
three or four real lanes, along with signs that say "Please choose your lane".
Drivers here actually watch out for police in their rear view mirror. Jude has no use for
his rear view mirror in Bangalore. Consequently hes oriented it so that he can look
at it every now and then, just to make sure hes still as handsome as ever. Drivers
here are as aggressive as in Bangalore the only way to make a right turn (our
equivalent of a left turn) is to keep pushing your car into oncoming traffic six to twelve
inches at a time, about every ten seconds. People either swerve around you, or if they
cant do that without hitting you, they stop. The Delhi government has recently woken
up to the problem of vehicular manslaughter. It raised the fine for homicidal driving to 2
months in jail and 2000 rupees, roughly three weeks wages for the average driver.
The previous fine was 200 rupees (six dollars). The fine for killing a cow with a vehicle
remains the same; about 10,000 rupees and 1-year in jail.
|Parking in New Delhi, however, is entirely similar to
Bangalore. At the airport our taxicar, a rather large "luxury" car called a
Contessa, was parked between two other cars with about two to three inches on either side.
In front of our car was an Ambassador, parked perpendicularly. I had no doubt, this being
India, that our driver knew how to get out. Sure enough, he took out some magical piece of
metal and did something to the Ambassadors rear wheel, and then kicked the tire. A
few seconds later the Ambassador started to move; he ran to the front, pushed the
Ambassador, and away it went merrily creating a blank hole in front of our Contessa.
Another driver, two cars to the left of ours, didnt want to miss this golden
opportunity. He rapidly moved the car in front of him, and FILLED our hole. Sigh.
Meanwhile, the merrily moving Ambassador scraped the two cars on its right side, with its
bumper grabbing another car and dragging it along as well. Not to worry, the Ambassador
didnt have to far to go; it finally hit another Ambassador behind it. One of he
unwritten rules in negotiating situations like this, is that it is a severe loss of face
and manhood to reverse your own car. You can only go forward. This results in a unique
form of the Chinese puzzle. Twenty minutes later after a lot of cursing, screaming, and
"going forward", we got out. It was then that I noticed that most of the taxis
in the lot had various 3 to 4 foot gouges along their sides. Since they were all white
Ambassadors and Contessas, their scratch marks became much like the identifying scars that
Jane Goodall used to ID chimps..
|Intriguingly, there are relatively few cows in traffic in
New Dehli (25% of the worlds cows are in India, only India doesnt eat them,
and they are free to wander at will). Here, the only animal that stops traffic dead is a
cobra. Yesterday, traffic came to a halt on a bridge connecting us to the convention
center. For an hour the traffic parked as drivers got out of their car to view two cobras
that had slithered from the nearby fields to sun themselves on the asphalt. The policemen,
rather than take chances that might risk life, sight, or early retirement, did nothing.
Finally a disgusted young man found a long pole, and pushed the cobras off the road. No
one wanted to kill the cobras, or harm them in any way - the cobra is even more sacred
than the bull or cow.
|The show was a huge win for Apple. It was a bust for me. My
talk on "The Future of Graphics", while inspiring, was aimed at an audience who
for the most part, just wanted to have a place to sit. I tried to razz them into
excitement - "How many people have used the Macintosh"? Three out of fifty.
"How many people have used Photoshop"? Two out of fifty. "How many people
have heard of the Internet"? Four out of fifty. At this point I was getting
frustrated, and committed what I later was told was a major faux pas "How many people
came for the free T-shirts"? Three out of fifty. I still havent quite got a
grasp on whats appropriate Indian humor. One person after the show did tell me he
came for the free t-shirt, laughed, and then said thanks. I visited with several people
who wanted to do software development for the Mac. One CEO of a 100 person company proudly
showed me a Windows product he had "ported" to the Mac. This consisted of
getting it to work under MacroMedia Director Mac instead of MacroMedia Director Windows.
His proudest accomplishment was that he had been able to keep the Windows look and feel on
| This is the city of the MLA. Im not sure what
MLA stands for; these guys are the equivalent of US senators. Their first act, upon
entering Congress is to pay off all the debts incurred during campaigning, by taking
bribes. This is also their second, third, and final act, until they are booted out of
power. They then retire, having obtained a huge home with all the usual government
perqs they voted for. At retirement, the wise MLA budgets part of his slush fund to
use for court bribes in case the next party in office wants to create a "judicial
probe" for improper bribery. A MLA came to visit the Apple booths. One of their
badges of power is to be guarded by two security guards in front, and two in back. This
MLA was in full regalia. Apparently MLAs now routinely write fake threat letters so they
can get more security guards and bigger "safer" cars. Graham joked that the
guards were cheaper than a Rolex. Graham and I have become jaded about employee
perqs, having recently formulated company policy for employee cars. I suggested that
the guards were in the MLAs contract, but that the weapons had to be approved by
government. He replied that there was probably competition to see who had the longest and
biggest gauge barrel. It is fitting though, that their guns are frequently rusted and
incapable of use.