Wacky Races

IMG_4945Got pulled over by the ‘Old Bill’ today. The Indian ‘Old Bill’ in their crisp brown uniforms, lurking near a roundabout under some palm trees.

No drama. No sirens. Just the simple, “will you pull over here Sir?” gesture, and gentle nod.

So we did.

“Can I see your International Driving Licence, Sir?” he addressed husband.

“Don’t need one,” replied husband. “I have a British Driving Licence.”

We were out and about exploring the sights on a scooter. Here in Goa – India’s smallest state – it feels like it’s one point million something population are all on scooters at the same time.

Cliché I know – and I thought was was due to the movies – but the roads here really are Wacky Races. I refer to that madcap 1970s cartoon starring Dastardly and Mutley (“Tee hee hee”), and Penelope Pitstop.

Here, all things imagined are carried on the back of a scooter.

My favourite so far is some chap’s 90-year-old grannie and all her shopping; two large full carrier bags, a plastic washing basket and small step ladder.

A close second is the young mother and her four children; three riding pillion behind her arranged in height order, with the youngest confidently stood on the running board at the front; cannot have been more than 18 months old.

Joint third is the chap texting as he raced along at night along an unlit road, and the gentleman riding alone with his right leg in a cast balancing his crutches on his lap.

None were wearing helmets. Helmets are not obligatory. What is obligatory however is the keen and constant blaring of one’s horn.

You beep at things to get out the way – people, dogs, pigs, other scooters, cars, lorries, buses all inches from you – and to warn people, dogs, pigs, other scooters, cars, lorries, buses you’re overtaking them.

There’s no give-way here. Its everyone for themselves. This means you’re sounding off (so to speak) all the time.

So we felt very British wearing helmets on our scooter and observing local driving rules. It was a great way to explore.

Which brings us back to the ‘Old Bill.’

By now husband is waving his driving licence at the copper, who has just told us we must pay a 900 rupee (about £9) fine for not having an International Driving Licence.

“I don’t agree with that,” said husband, most indignant by now.

“This is a British Driving Licence you know. It is the best driving licence in the world. You can drive anywhere on it, even India.”

Negotiations stalled at this point, and husband remained indignant even after the officer’s boss was called over to assist in the discussion.

Husband remained resolute that we didn’t need one. Moreover, “he hadn’t even heard of it.”

By some miracle we were let off with a warning. Back at the hotel we checked online and discovered yes we did need the bloody thing.

So the morale of the story of this. Don’t be fooled by the relaxed rule of the road here. Make sure you have the right paperwork.

(Licence only available from your country of origin; in the UK online and from the AA and all good Post Offices.)

But not here.

So we’re walking from now on…


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