Cheating Death Thrice in One Night

I had been warned about drivers in India, but my experiences in Mumbai had taught me that drivers knew what they were doing. As a matter of fact, I found them to be quite talented; weaving their way through traffic, cutting off taxis and ox-drawn carriages, braking within millimetres of pedestrians, and always avoiding what appeared to be a sure accident.

Well, my complete trust in rickshaw drivers changed one night in Pune.

Getting ready to go out and celebrate a friend’s upcoming wedding, a large group of us streamed unto the streets and hailed down several rickshaws; a task which took considerably little time since the majority of the girls were clad in heels and short dresses… And so the events unfolded:

Meet Driver #1 

Within minutes of leaving the hotel our driver realized something wasn’t right with his vehicle. We stared at him in horror as he turned around and calmly informed us that his brakes were not working! Seeing a gas station within reach, he brought us to a long and slow halt, where he proceeded to phone a friend to take over. We paid him for the short journey and got into our second rickshaw.

Meet Driver #2 

Picking up where his friend had left off, this driver both nearly took and saved our lives. Driving down one of the city’s main roads everything appeared to be going fine. In the back, the three of us were playing a ridiculous game of ‘Have You Ever’ and were not paying any attention to the road. That’s when we hit a pothole and the rickshaw’s front wheel went flying off! (That’s right, the wheel flew off!) Sharp metal screeched against the concrete leaving a bright trail of sparks. I clung to the metal bars as the rickshaw swerved from side to side, nearly tipping over to the left before being brought to a complete stop. Our driver jumped out in shock and ran back to pick up the wheel he’d lost, while the three of us scrambled out from the back, having seen our lives flash before our eyes. Drivers stopped and the police soon showed up. We probably should have turned around and gone home at this point, but no, we didn’t. We got into a third rickshaw instead…

Meet Driver #3 

With our hearts still beating from our close brush with death, we asked our third driver to take it easy on the road. He appeased us by driving slowly, but then pulled right into the blindspot of the coach bus in front. When the bus decided to make a sharp right turn rather than go straight, we were nearly wiped off the road. With a sharp U-turn maneuver, our third driver avoided a nasty collision.

And that’s how I had 3 close brushes with death in a matter of 30 minutes.

Have you had any close calls on the road?


  • phillegitimate says:

    … so how did you get home from the wedding? Did you give the rickshaws another chance?

    Great article. Is that picture of one of THE drivers? What foresight!

    • thatbackpacker says:

      That sure is one of the 3 drivers, haha!

      And I was back on a rickshaw later that night, but only out of necessity to get around the city, and I flinched at the sight of any speeding vehicle…

  • Katherina says:

    that sounds like an adventure of its own kind! I one took a cab in Madrid to the airport for a very early flight. The cab hit another car. The other driver started shouting at my cab driver (I’m spanish, so I understood every .single.word)… the cab driver got out of the cab, back to his trunk, took a baseball bat and started hitting the other car.
    I know, its not exactly a “nearly death experience” but it was sort of scary too!!

    • thatbackpacker says:

      Wow, that’s one way to solve the argument! I would have been horrified to see him pull out a baseball bat!!

  • Abhijit says:

    Ah, India.. home! 🙂

  • Suzy says:

    Wow, sounds like the quite the ride or rides rather. Luckily I haven’t cheated death while traveling. I do have a friend though who on an tour bus in Egypt watched as driver of the bus climbed to the other side of the car, over the hood, just as a practical joke while driving.

  • Benny says:

    The Joys of Night travel in developing Countries. Reminds me of the night in Ghana where we were in 2 car accidents in 2 hours. Night travel in Africa – Never again…

  • Appu says:

    Yep. Last year touring solo with motorbike within Uttarakhand I had an accident as motorbike slipped and was hurt but to take medical attention I have to drive alone 20 km as there was nobody present. I learn that many times in life one has to take care of self alone and has to fight to win. Anyways, best wishes for your journey.

  • Sasha says:

    WOW!!! What a story!!! I’ve taken tonnes of Tuk Tuk rides in Thailand but I still always feel uneasy in fear that incidences such as yours might actually happen! I can’t believe the wheel actually flew off!

  • Ted Nelson says:

    Glad to hear you made it through the three brushes unscathed. This is not the first post I have read about crazy rickshaw drivers in India.

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  • Vera says:

    This is the stuff that makes great stories -although I felt really bad about laughing out loud when the wheel flew off:( I’ve not been to India yet, but the traffic there always seemed quite …improvisational to me. Now I’m pretty sure I’m totally gonna wet my pants when I engage in it.
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    • thatbackpacker says:

      It is funny now when I think back on it, but at the time I thought I was a goner. Traffic in India is something else – even though it is complete chaos there seems to be a certain formula to the madness. 😀 I can’t wait to go back and get on another rickshaw!

  • Alexa says:

    Sounds similar to my experiences in India too! Never had I experienced crazier driving than India – the bad roads, driving on the wrong side of the street, sleepy drivers, hard-core bargaining, etc. We had one driver almost doze off on us, which is actually pretty common because they get very little sleep. We also got THREE flat tires on a crazy road trip across the country with a driver. One tire was fixed the MacGyver way by putting a rag in the hole… and it worked!

  • that is awesome and super scary!!
    We thought flying down a main highway in Phuket at approx 140km/h in a truck with a Thai Local, while he raced to get us back to our shuttle, was scary!
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  • Tour Dubai says:

    This is simply what you can expect from rickshaw drivers in India and around Asia!

  • vsain says:

    Its true Rickshaw drivers are not that good drivers, but i guess you bit less on luck too :P. i just started following your blogs, i love the way you write. So whenever you plan to come to India again, i would love to be your guide,and show you the best of India 🙂

  • Hannah says:

    haha I love reading about other people’s experiences with the driving in India. It’s one of the many things that can’t be explained, but is quintessential to Indian city culture. I’ve lived and traveled in India on three occasions (each for a couple months). Every time I jump in a taxi after having landed in Delhi, the warm putrid air wips my hair about to a background of Hindi music and beeping car horns. Ah, the bliss.

    Love your entire site, both the content and look of it… incredible!

    -Hannah Swift

  • Holly says:

    Wow! It’s definitely stories like this that make me realize how fortunate I’ve been in my travel experiences. I haven’t really had any run-ins, but for one time that my family got assaulted by a young man in Dominican Republic a few years back, just hours before we were supposed to fly home. My mom ended up with a broken leg, but we opted to get on our flight home as soon as possible from being spooked!

    So glad you all made it back ok!

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