Labels (choose what you want to read about)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Get out of my way!

Why do Indians honk so much? The honk is so integral to our driving that the average motorist would feel a sense of bereavement if he is made to honk less. The honk is second nature and fundamental right, righteous belief and ego masseur...all rolled into one. 'I honk, therefore I am'

To be sure, this is not a condition that afflicts only Indians. Motorists across the developing world share this annoying habit. You could say its a function of the more chaotic roads here, but you would only be partly right. There seems to be a fundamental difference in the way an average person approaches driving in the developed vs developing world...

In the civilized* world a honk is used very rarely, and only as a sort of emergency warning for others using the road, saying Hey! Watch out! In India too of course the horn is sometimes used to avoid accidents, but more than that, its used as a form of DEMANDING RIGHT OF WAY. Yes, most of the times you honk in India, you are just screaming out your demand...GET OUT OF MY WAY!






Think about it. If you are speeding down a road and you approach a junction, instead of slowing down you just honk repeatedly. What you are saying is: I don't care about slowing down for you - I am just gonna honk hard and repel you away - well out of my way. Same holds if you spot a pedestrian crossing the road a few meters ahead of you and don't want to slow down, or you want to change lanes and can't wait your turn, or any of a hundred different scenarios where you just want to assert your right of way.

I have been cutting down on my honking over the last few months, and now there are instances when I can complete the entire 14km commute to work or back without honking even once. On some occasions there is indeed no way I can not honk, and I imagine this percentage is certainly higher than the equivalent percentage in a city like London or NY. But my honk rate has surely become 90 or 95% lower than my fellow Mumbai motorists. All this while being entirely safe - in fact safer! Because now I must slow down if I see someone in my way -> lesser speed implies lesser risk of collision.

But lets try and understand the psyche of a honker. There are many who simply haven't the exposure. They have learnt to drive on Indian roads, are taught to honk as often as possible, and simply know no other way. These folks can and will definitely convert into the non-honker types as India gets more civilized*. I am just one of them who has crossed over to the other side (hope you don't see this blog as some sort of higher-ground-taking).

However there is also the other type. The motorist for whom the daily commute is equivalent to a prehistoric battle of domination, and the road is where he gets to mark his territory. For this person, nay, man**, the horn is an ultimate tool of ego deliverance.

I can talk a bit about this whole ego thing for this guy, all the bluster and bravado, the need to prove something to the world etc. But I am just going to show you a gem of a comic instead:

Source: FlyYouFools. Check it out if you haven't already - every single comic. You will love it!

Text below the comic: Now you won’t feel angry when the person behind you feels obliged to make you aware of the fact, that the light has turned green. This usually happens 534 microseconds after the change. Don’t feel rage. Feel sympathy for the guy.

I will leave you with one last thought. The extent of calm driving (and gigantic silencers) goes down as we move from the developed world to developing countries, and even within India it goes down as we move from a Mumbai to a Baroda to a Jalandhar. Its not just education or awareness - why do people from smaller towns feel the need to impose themselves that much stronger? Over to you.

Update: I have realized that for a peaceful, honk-free drive you do need a couple of factors to be in your favor. Most important being, you should not be getting late to reach someplace. Others may be person / situation specific?

*I know that's a strong word but well deserved in this context
**It is always a man so why implicate the poor women? To quote FlyYouFools again, 'Ever seen an over-honking, bass thumping, large silencer sporting woman driver?'

No comments:

Post a Comment