Saturday, September 28, 2013

Honking in India

A couple of weeks back, my colleague asked me to drop him home on the way back from office. Incidentally, a shorter route to my home goes through a residential area. This particular residential area is a kind of colony composed of primarily single storied houses with people taking a leisure walk on the road in the evening, away from the major hustle of the city traffic. Through this colony I was driving my car peacefully and it takes about 5-6 left and right turns to reach my destination. 

All of a sudden when I was taking one of those left turns, my colleague said “USE YOUR HORN, WHY AREN’T YOU”. Now this was a complete shocker for me. He is well educated, belongs to a cultured family, himself probably practices many ethical things and also is against honking (as I heard him saying) but even after all this he was insisting that I blow my horn in that turning of that peaceful residential locality. 

In retrospect, I think it is not about the culture or the education, it is more about how you are taught driving in the first instance or how you have learnt driving over the period of time. I did a thorough analysis to find out the root cause of honking in India and to my surprise the revelations really bothered me. 

All motor driving schools, be it the branded ones or the local ones, teach driving in a completely flawed way. That’s the core reason why people learn all the wrong things. Because when they are novice drivers they are literally forced to learn the wrong things. This is a first-hand experience of mine, the trainer is saying to the student in a turning, “Madam / Sir, please honk, otherwise how will people know that you are coming”. Aghast! I feel sorry for this country. Here the real culprits are these trainers, how can you expect a road free of honking if they teach in the driving school the above things. It will take ages for people to have a self revelation that they are doing something fundamentally wrong. Unfortunately these people, when they drive around with their kids and honk in glory in every turning, their kids also learn this to be the correct way of driving. 

Undo the learning: now let’s be realistic and ask ourselves a few questions. Is it really required to honk at every corner / turning? NO – ABSOLUTELY NOT. If it is a turning, I’m 100% sure that you will not be driving fast. You have to slow down to take that turn. I’m also sure you won’t be driving blind-folded; hence if somebody comes in front of you, you can surely apply your brakes. So why exactly do you need to honk? You just don’t, simple as that. During the turning if you see somebody in front of you just calmly apply your brakes and when that obstruction goes, continue driving, simple. There’s no real need to honk, believe me! It’s just in your mind which you have to undo. 

Population of this country has been the biggest roadblock for any development, precisely the reason why 99% of the people cannot survive in this country without honking. All the roads are filled with humans and if not humans then dogs, goats, cows, buffalos and what not. There’s no respite, one needs to honk. But even after all this; I still feel one can consciously avoid honking if one wants to. Another incident with another colleague of mine is worth mentioning here. One fine day she said that she was not able to go to market because her car horn was not working. I was flabbergasted, when I asked her why she so desperately needs that horn, she said there are so many cars and 2-wheelers on the road and in the market people walk on the road as well, hence can’t drive without a horn. The issue actually has been bred into our DNA. The moment we see people on the road we honk, the moment we find a car in front we honk, when we turn we honk, when we start we honk, when we stop we honk, unfortunately, it has been a part of our life-style. We can’t survive without honking. Most people have grown up believing that honking is mandatory. 

Another situation where you will find Indians honking needlessly is the traffic signal. It’s a fun to watch people go mad at the click of the light from red to green. This incident repeats itself without fail in every signal in every city of India. Wait for the golden moment when the signal turns green, all the vehicles standing at the signal start honking in an uncanny rhythm. Why we have such low level of patience, why can’t we just wait a few seconds for the car in front to move? What exactly is going on in their mind? Do they think that if they honk the vehicles in their front will start flying or only when they honk will those vehicles start moving, otherwise not? This is truly ridiculous. 

In the western world, if anybody honks on the road, all people turn back and look at him, possibly to ascertain what’s the emergency. Honking is embarrassing there. I know, in India we might take another 100 years to reach that level, we might even never reach there, but we need to atleast consciously give it a try – NOT TO HONK. 

When is honking needed? 

In those traffic signals, if somebody slept on the steering wheel in is just not moving, then you need to honk. Otherwise, usually even though people realise late, they do realise that signal has turned green and they start moving. Just be patient and wait for a few more seconds before you hit your hand on that horn. Every time when your hand moves towards that horn, just ask yourself this question, is it required immediately, and believe me you will yourself get the answer NO. Just be conscious when you honk and your honking will come down by 80%. 
Honking is only mandatory when you have just NO OTHER WAY to let the person or vehicle in front of you to know that you are behind him and want a way. Only when there is no other way, then you honk, otherwise there is no need and it can be avoided. 

My dear brethren, let’s take a pledge not to honk, let’s atleast start from the signals, take a pledge today not to honk at signals and then take it to the next level where you just don’t honk ever. Today I’m in the 8th year of my driving experience, sometimes I even forget how my car horn sounds, sometimes I don’t even know whether it is working or not, but still I do absolutely fine on the road. I have developed a lot of patience and virtue and I think I can claim that I honk just once in a few months. That’s my run-rate; hope to bring it down even further and hope to give a quieter India to my next generation. 

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