Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The curious case of the horn

Have you ever been irritated by that persistent honking from behind you on the freeway, when all you wanted to do was just unwind and enjoy the view while driving at a 60 kmph rate on the right lane?

I am precisely that guy, honking from behind. And, the day I come face to face with you who uses the right lane so pathetically inefficiently, you will be dead meat.

My love for the car horn goes back a long way. Dad used to work late hours, and we didn’t have a security guard at home those days. He would honk from two roads away when he was arriving, so that it didn’t disturb my sleep, and so that mom could unlock the gate from inside. Apparently, I would wake up instantly too. To me, the horn was a sign that dad was home and all was well with the world again.

Years later, when best friend M returned from the US, she refused to use the horn any longer. “I want to reduce noise pollution Kavi”, she said. Her resolution lasted exactly two months. I gave an all knowing smile when she started using the horn again. She grudgingly acceded that it is difficult to handle the pedestrians in India by just flashing headlights (for we don’t leave them with footpaths, and hence they don’t leave us with roads to drive on).

My own driving has involved a lot of honking, as you would have realized by now. It is just easier to press the horn than flash the light, you know. One press versus two or three back and forth movements of the light and all that. Also, largely, people don’t get as irritated by light as they do by sound. The last time I ferried mom’s US-settled cousin in my car, he looked all around to see who the hell was honking, and swore never to get into my car again when he realized I was the culprit.

So, what happens when my favorite car equipment goes for a toss? Does the world fall apart? Do I go mad? Do I stop driving?

Apparently, none of these. I have been negotiating the big, bad Mumbai roads without a horn for two weeks now. And it isn't all that bad frankly.

Who am I kidding? The moment I realized the horn wasn’t working, I felt like I had lost my voice. I felt incapacitated to do anything, angry and frustrated at first, and then resigned to my fate, making do with the resources available at hand. But, with time, that has changed.

There is a strange sense of calm in my driving of late. For, I know that I cannot honk that pedestrian out of my way and just have to patiently drive behind them till they figure out they need to move aside. If that driver ahead of me doesn’t respond to my lights flashing, bad luck, but life goes on. My mom claims I have started driving like an American. Oh, well, I haven’t cracked yet what she knows about American driving, but that is a different story.

For now, I don’t miss my horn as much as I thought I would. And, I have started to believe in M’s resolution of wanting to reduce our contribution to noise pollution.

Oh wait! What’s that happening on the road? Damn! I need to get into that space ahead, and the driver on the left is shortchanging me. Honk! Honk! What? Why is there no sound? Oops! These are the times I miss you most, dear horn. Come back to me soon please. For, I have no say on the road without you after all.

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