Nepali Times
Under My Hat
Driving each other nuts


Friends, Romans and countrymen, lend me your ears. I have come to you today with yet another column containing valuable driving tips. To those of you who are muttering under your breath, "Oh no, not another article with silly driving tips!" let me just say that you have no choice. Take it or leave it. What? You are turning the page to read the editorial? OK, bye.

ving valiantly survived the British siege at Nalapani and the two-year Indian blockade in 1989, we Nepalis have developed a siege mentality that will see us through this blockade too. After all, if we have been able to live without water for the last four months in our neighbourhood, there is no reason why we can't carry on without daily items of basic necessity like broccoli. But (just in case) make sure your car is tanked up with high octane kerosene from the Agni Petrol Station, so you can keep on driving around town with no worries at all.

I know, I know, we just did a motoring column, but in this day and age you can never have enough pointers on how to negotiate traffic on our streets and blockaded highways especially because the rules keep changing. So, without much ado about nothing, it is time for another periodic update with answers to frequently asked questions about driving in Nepal:

Q: On which side of the road does one drive in Nepal?
: Those of you who thought that in Nepal we drive on the left side of the road are wrong. That rule has just been changed, and all motorcycles are henceforth required to drive on the right side (which used to be the wrong side) of the street at all times and weave suicidally in and out dodging oncoming trucks and buses. The left side of the road will now only be used to park bricks, cement, steel rods and other construction material.

Q: What is the latest on helmets and visors?
: As we go to press at 1900 hrs GMT on Thursday, you are not required to wear a helmet if you have a visor on. The pillion rider must have a helmet prominently displayed, but not necessarily on the head. The ban on visors has been reimposed after being lifted, and we are not quite sure of the status but you can wear an anti-pollution mask only if you can prove to the officer on duty that you are on a terrorist mission to blow up the toilet of Kathmandu's Ward 19 Secretariat.

Q: What are the rules on overtaking?
: The first thing to remember is that we never overtake in Nepal, we always takeover. It is a part of our glorious culture to be territorial about a 10 m radius of asphalt around us on the street, and woe betide anyone who deigns to trespass this space. And that includes you over there, yes, you on the wheelchair with two children on the zebra crossing.

Q: Are there any specific things I need to know about military checkpoints?
: I'm glad you asked that question because I've been wondering myself why if bus passengers are brave enough to defy the blockade they still need to get off with all their belongings at a checkpoint in Mugling and walk one km to be body searched. And, oh yes, the next time you want to go to the airport to receive someone, I suggest you go in on an armoured personnel carrier with a turret-mounted canon and blast your way through the sentry box. There is no other way to get to the arrival parking area to receive your near and dear ones.

Q: Besides chickens, are there any other things crossing the road that we need to watch out for?
A: Buffalos, goats, ducks and other livestock have right of way and can cross the road at any time anywhere and without warning. It is up to the driver behind the wheel to use telepathy to figure out what their intentions are. Dogs, on the other hand, don't cross the road but will race you while barking their heads off. Don't worry about them, unless they are wearing visors.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)