This time in the passenger seat makes for an amazing opportunity to observe, to witness. You learn a lot about a place driving through it - how space is defined, how it's used, cared for. I learned that bricks are pretty important in India. Bricks are seemingly a method for displaying one's wealth, and brick piles are ubiquitous. You might not have the means to build, but you do have the means to acquire the bricks and display your brick pile in front of your home, in your yard, on your plot of land.
I observed that in the smaller cities and towns in India many of the public spaces are strictly male domain. I lost count of the number of times we were driving through an area, and would observe that we saw no women; as the men sat and had chai, traveled from place to place, and went about their day-to-day. It was mostly when we passed close to rural farms, and the homes on them that we would see the women working in the fields, processing dung for fuel, tending the cows, feeding the fires, and otherwise ensuring that everyone was cared for. (Doing all of this, of course, in the most gorgeous, vibrant saris you have ever seen,)
I learned that the green fields were rice, that the tall yellow flowers were mustard. I learned that if you drive by an elephant with a bus full of yogis that the crowd goes wild. I learned that it takes a group of westerners about 5 minutes to clog an Indian flushing toilet. I learned that the Kumbha Mela stretches as far as you can see in both directions from the main traffic bridge in Allahabad. I learned a little better how to sit back and not worry about where the next turn, or meal, or destination was. I gave up trying to drive and became a better passenger.
This is a little movie I made from footage my husband, Dan, and I shot while (mostly in the passenger seat) in India. Enjoy the ride.