The Russian invasion of Ukraine is dominating the news cycle right now and while it’s a good idea to keep abreast of the conflict, it can feel disheartening to follow along without a break. So I encourage you to take a moment — even if it’s brief — from doomscrolling and just zone out while watching some of the busiest roads in the world, those of Mumbai.
Filmmaker David Baksh’s The Bombay Highway Code tracks a short ride on the dense streets of the capital city of Maharashtra, India. Up until the mid-1990s, the capital was known as Bombay. And the highway code is really just an implicit agreement that we as drivers — and riders — acknowledge no matter where we come and go.
The code changes here and there, but that’s why foreign roads are such a treat:
The unwritten rules in the Bombay code apply to an impossibly big number of people, given Mumbai’s population of almost 21 million. That’s over twice the population of New York City, which is the most populous in the U.S. Even with that many people, Mumbai’s roads are loosely regulated, according to Aeon:
Every city’s streets have their own modes of transport, rhythms and rules – written and unwritten. Nowhere is this more conspicuous than in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), where a population of some 20 million moves by foot, bike, rickshaw, train and all forms of motor vehicle across crowded and lightly regulated streets.
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In the absence of regulation, people turn to the highway code. Most of us can only imagine what it’s like to drive in a place that, but now we can also watch. We often talk about food and language as cultural markers but what we drive and the way we drive it says something about us, too.