We are a ‘horn’y nation

The amount of honking on Indian roads is enough to shake your soul.
We are a ‘horn’y nation

BENGALURU: We are a nation of honkers. We love to honk on the streets, on highways, and in our colonies. The reason Buddha was able to invent Vipassana meditation while sitting in Bodh Gaya, was because there were no vehicles at the time. I daresay if there was Indian traffic around him, Buddha would have been the god of war and violence. Instead of Laughing Buddha, we’d all have miniatures of him wielding an axe, tongue sticking out, eyes red with rage. The amount of honking on Indian roads is enough to shake your soul.

India is a nation of languages. The People’s Linguistic Survey of India reveals that there are 780 languages in India. It was obvious that we would turn honking into a language too. A language with a code of its own. When the light turns green in traffic, we honk so that the person in front of us moves. Which strangely results in the most honking occurring when people are stationary, under a green light! Autos have their own code – going ‘peep-peep’ on the sides of the road to serenade customers. Bikers’ horns are like a mating call to the Lunas and cycles of the world.

As a nation with a rich history of music, it was obvious that we would turn horns into music too. Remember ringtones? Trucks have their own renditions of evergreen hits – the ‘horn-tones’. For years, truck horns sang out Pardesi Pardesi while making a blind turn. But over the last two decades, Dhoom Machale Dhoom Machale has been the No. 1 Chartbuster. I love the idea of making the horn musical.

In a nation used to horns, they chose to say ‘Hey man, move out of my way. But listen to this song while you’re at it’. It’s an example of perfectly polite Indian chaos. For young rebels on their bikes, horns are a way of marking their territory. They are called ‘dog horns’, which is honestly offensive to dogs. Some people attach a truck horn to their bikes. They are restricted by budgets, but not by ambition. It is no surprise that our ambulances are so loud. Having to wade through a sea of horns, they are loud enough for aliens to call and ask ‘Did someone call us? Is Rakesh Roshan making another of those Krrish movies?’. 

It’s no surprise then that when we hear the official IPL sound, we all scream. Before he left, Lalit Modi figured out our addiction to horn sounds. When I try to play racing games like Need for Speed, the lack of any honking completely throws me off my tracks. Noise-cancellation earphones don’t stand a chance on Indian roads. When I plug in my high-end, designed-in-California (made in China) earbuds in traffic, I end up listening to a symphony of horns. The bagpipe-like horns of bikes, and the tuba-like horns of trucks. 

I am a firm believer in democratic structures. But if I were allowed one autocratic decision, I would ration out the number of horns a vehicle is allowed to make in a day. Allotted strictly on a need-to-honk basis, bikes will be allowed three honks a day, five for cars, and 10 for autos. Buses and trucks can use up to 20 honks a day. It will teach us to be judicious with our horns. Got hit by an auto? One honk to let others know you’ve fallen. A car overtook you from the left? One honk for your choicest swear word. It’s a policy that needs urgent implementation. If needed, please go ahead and name it the ‘Pradhan Mantri Horn Bajana Band Karo, Yaar Yojana’. Jai Hind! 

(The writer’s views are personal)

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