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Horn with the wind

For me, the most important news item — even bigger than the joyous revelation that James Bond’s No Time To Die will be the first Hollywood film to be dubbed into Gujarati — is what Union Road Transport Minister, Nitin Gadkari, said with regard to the new rules to make vehicle horn sounds more soothing.

Gadkariji lamented that even though he lives on the 11th floor, and does pranayama for one hour every morning, vehicle horns continue to disturb him. This led him to realise that the problem with automobile horns is not their sound but how they sound. What if, he proposed, instead of the horns being cacophonic honks and bleats, they sounded like the tabla, the violin, the bugle or the flute?

I was so astounded by the sheer simplicity, brilliance and atmanirbhar-ness of this idea that I had to take it to the next level. As readers are aware, I am not one to wait for rules to be put in place. As we speak, the asthana mechanic, Clutch Kadiresan, who has kept my 17-year-old Honda City shipshape using old Sumeet mixie parts, is yanking out the car’s horns and pounding them to a fine pulp.

What is the next step, you ask. You may be unaware of this, but I come from a highly cultured family so full of musicians, actors, dancers and snake charmers that we have run out of cupboard space. Fortunately for me, other than the ones who’ve migrated to the US, the rest are unemployed. Or institutionalised.

First off, I have just put an uncle (who wishes to remain unnamed), an accomplished flautist, shehnai- and nadaswaram player, on a retainer. In family circles, he is known as the Wizard of Wind (the mellifluous kind, not the other) because he can play even a PVC pipe like Louis Armstrong. He has been assigned to travel in the back seat of my car. We are putting off his travelling on the bonnet on a special seat (like the one John Wayne used in Hatari! to lasso giraffes) for Stage 2. The vidwan will, of course, have his entire arsenal of wind instruments — from the nadaswaram to the pungi — by his side.

As I negotiate the busy thoroughfares of our bustling city, Uncle will lower the window and, depending on the traffic situation, play the appropriate instrument at the appropriate volume.

For instance, if I sense the traffic signal is about to change to green, the maestro will play a gently persuasive tune on the flute, something that tells the drivers ahead that they better be ready to step on it unless they want to be rear-ended.

If, on the other hand, we are blocked by a herd of buffaloes, Uncle will bring out his invention, the double-barrelled nadaswaram (patent pending), stick it out of the window, and go full on Sivaji Ganesan from Thillana Mohanambal.

Similarly, the saxophone, the shehnai, the Long Dizi, the Short Dizi and the bansuri will be employed in various permutations and combinations depending on time of day, locality and who is blocking our path.

When I discussed this matter with long-time friend and mentor Ambujam Mami, team player that she is, offered to ride along. ‘Let’s make it a truly holistic audio-visual experience for everyone, no?’ she opined.

As a bonus feature, she will be leaping out of the car like a renegade doe from IIT’s campus — dressed in her part-Bharatanatyam-part-Kabuki fusion costume — and performing short, spontaneous dance items that match Uncle’s virtuoso playing.

Krishna Shastri Devulapalli is a satirist. He has written four books and edited an anthology.

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Printable version | Oct 16, 2021 11:38:48 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/horn-with-the-wind/article36510606.ece

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