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No honking please!

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Beep beep: Here I come
Beep beep: Here I come

Know why you honk? Well, sometimes, there’s just no reason

Stop grumbling. Driving is a breeze on Chennai roads. Start the engine, place a finger on the horn and press — and don’t let go. Invest in a horn more powerful than the engine, louder than street noise. Throw out the brakes, gear box, rearview mirrors and signal lights. Beep, beep and you have right of way. I can hear the driving instructor: “Sir, here is the horn. Press it hard, yes, like that only. Don’t ever take that finger off. Put other hand on the steering wheel, there you go! Your license is as good as laminated.”

If you can still hear, pay attention to the honking. It isn’t one long screech. Beeps have different beats, tunes and pitches. Maybe toot buffs change the melody to suit the audience. Maybe there’s more to it than meets the ear.

Great insights into this phenomenon came from Team-BHP (Big/Bada Horse Power), a group of car drivers with “petrol running in their veins”. Obviously they honk. Team-BHP’s Roll of Horners has listed reasons: “That’s the only way guys will ‘notice’ your presence.” “It’s an announcement mechanism to bozos that would otherwise cut lanes or stop suddenly.” “To relieve office frustration.” There’s more. “Car is a luxury, Indians don’t want to damage it.” “ “I’d be worried if the cabby doesn’t honk, he could be asleep!” “When someone seriously endangers the wellbeing of my car, I keep the horn pressed.” “Bad lunch, arguments with wife/boss…My honking is a substitute for profanity. You never learn to swear until you drive.” Indeed.

Appuchan in Bengaluru, miraculously hasn’t tooted for some days. “In my building people use loud horns even in basement parking at midnight! Some have horrendous reverse horns,” he said. He took a zero-sound oath. His “rage factor” does pop its ugly head, but he’d “like to promote a no-horn culture among at least “literate” drivers."

Truth is we’ve discovered “joy” in honking — we go beep-beep in front of the girlfriend’s house, shatter peace at night if the watchman doesn’t open the gate. And our streets have become deaf traps. In spite of constant beeping, we have the highest traffic accident rates.

Banning won’t help. Where are the ‘No Horn’ signs outside hospitals? What about the air-horn ban? Noise cameras or high horn-volume inside the car won’t help. In England, an anti-horn campaign has caused drivers to drive more carefully. Or we’ll continue to lean on the buzzer while waiting at the toll booth.

CODE OF CONDUCT

* Tap while within two feet of vehicles to make sure they don't swerve suddenly
* Approaching an intersection? A couple of gentle taps
* Vehicle ahead starts to turn without indicator? Warn with taps
* Some joker's cutting across or in front dangerously, tap again

GEETA PADMANABHAN

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