life in general

A honk could mean anything

Over the past few days, I have been having major arguments with a friend (based in the US) on the telephone. Invariably, I am in my car when he calls, and irrespective of what the conversation is at that point in time, it veers to the topic of the Great Indian Honk!! Now, anyone who has driven on Indian roads would vouch for the fact that there is this pleasant background noise caused by constant honking when one is on the road. Its one of those things that one takes for granted when in India, that people, alien to the rules of being on the road in this country, can be completely at sea.
Honking on the roads in India is not to be mistaken with the way it is viewed by the quieter west. It is, by no stretch of imagination, a rude intrusion of someone’s privacy. It is, well, our way of communication and feedback, even while being on the move!
For example, the intensity of the honk varies depending on what one driver is trying to communicate with other drivers or pedestrians on the road, as the case may be.
A gentle honk means: I’m about to overtake you, watch out.
Continuous honking means: Move out of my way, you are wasting my time.
A sharp honk means: The light is green- why am I not moving? After all, it’s only understandable that the patient Indian roadster who has three cars and ahead of him, and two motorcycles that are perpendicular to him, can’t seem to figure out why, with the light green, he is not zipping at 60kmph.
By the way, not all Indians honk. Some of the well-travelled lot, who appreciate the ways of the west when it comes to maintaining decorum and rules while driving, make do with a gentle flash of light every now and then- which means: Watch out, I’m behind and want to overtake! Of course, this breed is a scarce lot, mainly because it’s not a trait with which one can survive for long on Indian roads.
I am sure we all appreciate the importance of open communication and continuous feedback at all times. Why should being on the road be any different?? It is only a reflection of the adaptability of Indians that we as a race tend to be not so rigid about rules, including and especially when we are behind a steering wheel. When people overtake from left and right, or when they jump lights- it’s to be viewed with a healthy respect for being opportunistic and enterprising. It has nothing to do with being unruly or having scant respect for the law. Talking of law, we prove we are a peaceful nation by the absence of cops at every major traffic junction with Speed guns or with cars with flashing lights. If that isn’t a sign of civility, I don’t know what is!!
We also believe in the rule of Live and Let Live. It’s only natural for cows and dogs have the right of way. After all, we want to be inclusive in every sense of the word. And our animals, with their bindaas attitude can put PETA out of business! And the presence of multiple modes of transport and people on foot at any given point in time can only be considered as the best way to test people’s eye-brain coordination, as well as their reflexes. I can guarantee that Indian drivers have the best reflexes on the face of this planet. Where else would you see folks maneuver their way, jam the brakes, and move on- all in a span of a few minutes without batting an eyelid?
My friend needs to learn a thing or two- patience and adaptability- Indian driver style, are things that come to my mind immediately! Perhaps it will help us have a decent conversation without the Honk intruding our private space!!!!!

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