“Quaquaversal”- A Word I finally Understand in Pune by Natalie Anumolu

Our first day in India we went on an adventure, and took our first walk. It was definitely quite the experience. To give us break from orientation, all fifteen of us marched down the streets of Pune in a single line behind our Resident Director. Heads literally turned, people waved, and people just simply stared at us. Next time we’re expecting pictures. And to be fair, there were some in our group taking pictures of India too- so both parties are curious. It was pretty comical though.

And I’ve never seen such crazy traffic. Cars would not stop for us, even if 15 pale skinned, Western clothed, camera bearing, hat wearing Americans were interesting to look at. Cars would back out right in the middle of when our group was passing, and rickshaws would fly by so close to us, that if we suddenly moved our arm, it would be gone. When we first landed in New York and were driving to the university we were staying at for orientation, we had this crazy shuttle driver who kept driving inches away from bikers, pedestrians, and cars, all while reading a piece of paper in his right hand. All of us were freaked out, but that was just preparation for Pune.

I’d describe the streets as quaquaversal, which is Latin for moving or happening in every direction instantaneously. Cars, pedestrians, cyclists, stray dogs, rickshaws and motorbikes (mopeds) fill the streets of Pune. Constantly. Motorbikes not so common in America, but they are everywhere in India, especially in Pune. In fact, I just learned that Pune actually has the greatest number of motorbikes (mopeds) in the entire world. According to the wise and holy genie Wikipedia, “Pune traffic, in short, is probably the worst nightmare for motorists.” No wonder NSLI-Y rules dictate that students aren’t allowed to even ride on motorbikes.

Why? The reason why these streets are so quaquaversal is probably because there’s no stop signs. Or hardly any stop lights. Or any signs for that matter. People just simply go- whether they are directly in the way of a pedestrian or not. Honking is a way letting people know your location, and is not considered rude here. If someone slows down for the occasional stoplight or person, people honk as if their life depends on it.

The rushing around is interesting because the average person is probably already late to wherever they’re going, because, they probably all run on IST, or Indian Standard Time. Nonetheless, it seems efficient. No one has to stop at a red light for four minutes. Everything is fast paced. To the untrained eye, everything moves in every direction instantaneously- but if you look closely, there seems to be a certain order to the craziness. People know when to pause for a few seconds to let another car pass and when to zoom by, driving by instinct. It’s actually pretty neat, and scary at the same time.

But, even if there’s an order to the chaos, I’m glad I can’t ride on a motorbike. For now, it’s enough of a challenge to make sure I am able to stay safe walking on the street. Although it seems everyone is always ok. And if I keep my wits about me, I know I will be too.

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One thought on ““Quaquaversal”- A Word I finally Understand in Pune by Natalie Anumolu

  1. Great to see the blogs by NSLI-2015. (We were hosts to the 2014 batch.) BTW – wish to make one correction. You have said “Pune traffic is probably the worst nightmare for motorists.” Sure Pune traffic is a nightmare – not for the motorists though, but for the pedestrians! This is the city where elderly people take cab to cross a busy street – no kidding!

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