The open roads are another proposition altogether. Indian vehicles don't have brakes, instead they have horns to warn other road users that they should get the hell out of the way. It appears that you can drive on either side of the road depending on how your mood takes you on any given day.
"I'm off to work now dear, I think I'll drive on the right today, but then I'll probably switch to the left when I get halfway, unless it rains in which case I'll just go straight down the middle. See you tonight maybe, or in the afterlife. Don't wait up."
My staff say that conventional out of town Indian roads are horrific and that visitors travelling by car on such roads should take at least four pairs of clean underwear with them if the journey is likely to take more than an hour. Brown trousers are also a must. Every few kilometres you pass the scene of an accident, either a smashed up car or an overturned truck - often both, and its no wonder trucks overturn because they are so top heavy. Who loads these things? The trucks you see there are often higher than they are long. It's amazing. India is one country that could really use a few health and safety laws. My staff also saw the body of a pedestrian who had evidently just been hit by a truck which had subsequently overturned a hundred metres or so further on. The poor woman was laying at the side of the road dressed in a beautiful lime green sari surrounded by a crowd of other women similarly brightly dressed. There were no men anywhere to be seen and no other drivers stopped to see if they could help. Not that anyone could have helped the unfortunate woman.
Then when my staff's vehicle reached a dual carriageway they both heaved a great sigh of relief. Surely now they would, at least for the time being be safe from a violent death amongst a shattered pile of twisted steel and glass. Well, my staff have always been blindly optimistic and naive. Just because it was a partitioned dual carriageway didn't mean that they wouldn't have to share it with camels, elephants, dogs, goats and cows. Neither did it mean that you wouldn't find a large, overloaded truck heading straight towards you on your side of the partition. Really the only difference between the dual carriageway and the standard road was that the average speed was one hundred and forty kilometres an hour instead of one hundred twenty. So when my staff arrived miraculously unscathed at their destination they had to be assisted up the steps of the hotel because they were shaking so much and walking as though they had crapped themselves. Mainly because they had.
My staff will be making sure that their travel insurance is up to date.
You might well ask why they re going to put themselves through all this again. Its something to do with tigers apparently. They've always wanted to see wild tigers, so before they all disappear into the cabinets of the purveyors of traditional Chinese medicine they've decided to risk their lives on Indian roads once more. They'll be visiting a national park in central India and staying there for a week. This national park is supposed to be the best place to see wild tigers. My male staff googled it so it must be right. He typed in "BEST PLACE TO SEE TIGERS" and the first answer that came up was Australia Zoo - the late Steve Irwin's establishment about fifty kilometres south of where we live. So he retyped "BEST PLACE TO SEE WILD TIGERS" This time he got the answer Bandhavgarh National Park. So that's where they're headed.
My male staff already has a pet tiger. I've no idea why he needs to see a wild one.
To get there they have to fly from from New Delhi to a place called Jabalpur (No, I've never heard of it either) on an airline called SpiceJet who apparently use fermented chillies instead of conventional aviation fuel. Jabalpur is where the real fun starts. From there to the Bandhavgarh National Park its a four hour drive, so I hope their lodge has a well stocked bar and easily accessible toilets for when and if they arrive.
It's always safety first with SpiceJet.
What's happening to us while my staff are away? Well Paolo the budgie will be staying with my female staff's Mum. He's looking forward to this because she forgets that she's fed him and feeds him again. He's now busy perfecting the art of looking pained and hungry while sucking in his substantial birdseed belly. Meanwhile Boris, Baci and I will be ensconced at the Pet Resort. Badger and I went there a few years ago and they did a good job. Regular readers will remember that last time my staff went away they left us in the care of a guinea pig breeder, thinking that a breeder would know all about guinea pig requirements. How wrong they were. We were fed all the wrong stuff and both became very sick. I survived - obviously, but poor Badger eventually died. The lady at the Pet Resort will be under strict instructions of what to feed us and will probably be receiving phone calls at odd hours from my staff wanting to speak to me to make sure we're being looked after properly.
Voah! Please to be hangink on einen cotton pickink moment bitte. Who is beink zis Badger Piggy und vot is happenink to him? Zis is der first ich have heard of any of zis. Before ich am goink to any verdammt Pet Resort ich vant ein written guarantee zat ich vill nicht be poisoned or sold into slavery.