All of us who drive on India’s chaotic roads are well acquainted with cacophony, for it pops out at us at every turn, every junction and even on arrow-straight stretches of tarmac. The motor and rickshaw horns make you nauseous, like the itch in the spot on your back that you can do nothing about. It’s a collective delusion, the idea that the blaring of a horn will disperse the traffic jam in front of you or speed up your process along the grid-locked avenues.
Indian road manners are appalling—a wilderness of etiquette; an Olympics of self-regard and interest; tsunami of defiance and like many things in our cultural framework, a defiance of laws.
The roads on most cities are buzzing with “music”. Getting hit by another car for no fault of yours is just one of the perils of driving in India. Rash and even drunken driving has come of age. It’s a deadly cocktail of loud music, alcohol and speeding without a reason. The drivers, aware of their social responsibility towards vehicles nearby, believe in playing their music on full volume. In a jam, just to ensure that the horn is alright, they keep buzzing it.
In smaller metros there was another problem of VIP sirens. Almost every second car has a dignitary passenger who claims the right of priority passage by blowing the sirens. I have seen ambulances taking the hospital staff from their residences blowing a siren. They shamelessly blow the sirens in a crowded street and no wonder even if there is a genuine case with a patient inside, the ambulances hardly get a way. On second thoughts, however, I feel that despite the misuse, one must give way to ambulances as just the thought of having a loved one inside it, is disturbing.
One cannot miss motorcyclists and auto drivers who feel their vehicles have model-like waists and can catwalk between the zigzags of other vehicles. The scratches contributed by their efforts to reach 30 seconds earlier are purely incidental. Be ready for the choicest of profanities if you bar their way. If these categories are not enough to make Indian roads alive with the sound of music, we also have bravehearts in pedestrians who always want to cross the road when traffic is on. You touch them and there will be a new melody instantly.
I have often seen people coming back from other countries admiring how people there drive without honking or breaking rules. While breaking rules is extremely subjective in a country like India, at least the noise factor is something we can slowly progress towards abolishing.
To add insult to injury, there is an incongruous debate over lowering speed limits to a sensible and practical level. Comparisons to auto bahns in Germany where there are followed road rules, disciplined drivers is sheer folly. Every manoeuvre made after checking the rearview mirror is a sheer contrast to the Indian driver who barely uses it other than for cosmetic purposes. In our country roughly two lakh people are killed in road accidents. There is nothing wrong with the cars or rules, but there is nothing right in the driving either. Overtaking through the left, jumping the red light, mowing down innocents need to be dealt with immediately. Till then, happy motoring.