Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Honkzilla - It's in our culture!

With the Mumbai traffic police taking up the ante of the “No honking Drive” in Mumbai we may see people changing the way they use the “electronic-bhompu”. Time will tell the efficacy of the drive. Here is my take-
Let’s face it- In India we love to give a personal touch to everything, be it a little tabasco sauce in the spicy monchow soup or discussing politicians rather than politics. In India like Guru bhai said “Even business is personal”

So why should we stop honking? After all it is our way of saying “Get out of the way you tortoise” or “Please give way”. The loudness and the pattern of the honk is indicative of the temperament of the driver who is honking. So honking isn’t just about telling the person to give way but it is an expression all too personal to do away with.

Advising people is one thing but changing a culture is an entirely different ball game.

Let us take a typical roadside example. Tulsi is walking on the road rather than the pavement. She just had paani puri at the pani puri wala who works on the pavement. Ram who is in a hurry to reach his appointment with Dr. Suri is driving his Santro at a break neck average speed of 20kmph. From a distance he sees Tulsi walking on the road instead of the pavement/marketplace. The only way for him to pass a 14 wheeler travelling at 5kmph is to overtake the monster from the left, the only obstacle being Tulsi. Tulsi loves her walks as much as she loves her paani puris and she cares two hoots about the various businesses taking up her walking space. She is comfortable walking on the road as well. Ram by this time decides that overtaking is the right option. After all Dr. Suri is the best somethingologist in town and missing his appointment could be tantamount to no more appointments for a month.

The overtaking procedure begins with the well educated Ram doing the polite soft honk which says “Please stand aside. I know it’s tough, what with the stupid sandwich wala occupying the pavement. But please try”. Tulsi is still talking on the phone.

Ram decides to go for the double honk procedure – One short, one long. In other words he is trying to say “Look lady, I know your calls are important but not at the cost of totally ignoring my desperate pleas for some room”

This time Tulsi takes notice and blurts out a “Dikhta nahi hai kya. Jagah nahi hai” and continues talking on the mobile. At this point Ram loses it. He is late. He sees a stone over a tiny nala on which he presumes Tulsi could stand and give him way. Now he tries the loud long honk procedure which pretty much means “Get out of the way or else..”. Tulsi at this point cannot even talk on the phone because Ram is getting all too personal. She spots the rock and jumps on it. The car rolls past. Tulsi continues talking and walking- An easy victim for Rams galore.

Blame honking on the chana wala, blame it on the average speed on Mumbai roads, blame it on trucks in suburbs at peak hours, blame it on random parking, blame it on bad roads, blame it on signals even but don’t blame it on people. Because it is, after all “in our culture”.
- Karthik

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