It depends on the time of day, but crossing the street in front of our house in Chennai can be an adventure in itself. It goes without saying that traffic in these parts is completely disorganized. The flow is a random process, with vehicles of all shapes and sizes trying to find a way through the confusion. Four-wheelers in all sizes – buses, trucks, construction vehicles, smaller vans, cars, etc.., compete for space with three-wheelers and two wheelers, both motorized and foot powered. (I am a little surprised I have not yet seen a bullock cart on this road.)
The concept of staying on your side of the road will get you nowhere when you are trying to get someplace. And if you are on a two-wheeler, you may even try to maneuver sideways between two vehicles if there is enough space to find your way around stopped traffic.
The pedestrian is a forgotten entity in the midst of all of this, but, because of the nature of the place, people have to cross the road all the time to take care of daily business. These folks are looking for the break in the traffic to start walking across the street, hoping that no other vehicle appears on the road while they are in the process.If one such vehicle were to appear, it is more than likely not going to stop for you. Rather, the driver, in all likelihood, is going to try to find a way around you, trying to avoid slowing down. This will happen even while you keep moving. It is not clear what one is supposed to do. Do you keep walking, do you halt in your tracks, or do you make a dash for it, not knowing how the speeding vehicle will respond. You take your life in your own hands. I have seen people put out their hands while stepping in front of a slowly moving vehicle like a bus, instructing it to stop. That seems to work. After all, bus drivers probably do not wish to be lynched by an angry mob if something untoward happens. I once had to wait about 15 minutes to try to cross a busy road. My friend, who was waiting patiently in a car on the other side, finally stepped out on to the road, put his hand out, and proceeded to cross over to my side. It was the work of a master of the craft.
My initial experience with trying to cross the road in front of our house during this trip nearly led to disaster. I had lost all the skills I thought I had acquired from previous visits. I was probably fortunate to not get injured. But I am getting better. What is required is a ton of patience. And sudden moves to make a dash for it across the road are ill-advised. Also, never try your luck crossing the street when your vision is partially blocked, especially by a bus or some similar sized vehicle.
Folks who live in these parts have been crossing busy Chennai roads like this for years. They are taking a calculated risk when they do this, and probably feel that the chances of not being hit under the circumstances are somewhat reasonable from a statistical perspective. People have no other choice, and you have to have a certain sense of fatalism ingrained in you if you are to survive under these circumstances.
I could not resist posting the picture below. The family is on a two-wheeler, probably waiting for mom to reappear from her shopping at the local store. She will get on the back of the motor-bike, behind dad, and off they will go!