Friday, January 22, 2010

Horn OK Please

This is a weird situation. I learnt how to drive, gained a couple thousand miles of driving experience, but didn’t learn how to honk. Now if you lived in India, you wouldn’t believe me. In fact I wouldn’t believe myself. Unlike here, honking in India isn’t considered rude or uncourteous. It is a part of the driving ritual. The “Horn OK Please” sign is painted colorfully behind trucks and other large vehicles so that they know you are there when you pass them, lest they ruthlessly crush the teeny weeny scooter that you are driving. Over the years, my auditory senses have habituated to the silence of driving here, so much so that every time I call mother in India and she happens to be outside, the sheer traffic noise and the unbearable honking makes me hang up and call back when she is home. I know I sound like one of those spoilt NRIs who wrinkle their nose at everything when they go home, drink pani puri water from mineral water bottles, scoff at the dust and dirt, but do nothing about it. I don’t want to sound like one of them, but the noise is unbearable nevertheless.

I drove for 6 months straight without having to honk. But earlier this month, I became a victim of hazardous driving on two occasions. During the first one, the women (ah, why does it have to be a woman?) nicely took a right turn without seeing me, and came right in front of my lane without indicators. She had no idea I was driving right behind her. The second time, someone decided to change lanes at the last moment without indication. No idea if it was a woman again.

Much to my horror, I found myself groping for the horn on both occasions, but could not find it. Theoretically I know where the horn is located. But I guess my horn reflexes had still not developed well, and my car horn in particular is a little stiff and needs to be pressed really hard. On both occasions I was devastated, groping for the horn and not finding it. It felt like a situation where a person told you harsh words without reason and you suddenly found that you have momentarily lost your speech abilities. You want to open your mouth, protest, let the person know that you will not take shit, but you are mute. Same thing here, I wanted to signal the person but had to let her go. She didn’t even realize she had done something wrong. I on the other hand was left shaken.

So today I was waiting at the traffic lights when I found a car pull behind me. He tried to pass me from the right, thinking there were two lanes. Ordinarily I would have increased my speed, but here I let him pass me and come in front of me (it was still somewhat safe to do so), hit the honk button, and nicely honked for a full 5 seconds. Of course this was a benign mistake compared to the last two, and I could have let him go. The streets were broad, the traffic was light, and no one was driving for anything more than 30 mph. But I had to let go of my honk virginity sometime.

Ahh, the pleasure of honking for the first time. And now I know I no longer suffer from the “I am so dumb that I cannot even honk” syndrome. It felt as blissful as it did when I had learnt to use the skipping rope, boil an egg perfectly, or had learnt to bike for the first time.



R said...

as my driving instructor used to say, if u honk and then hit someone u can at least say "dada horn diyechi to, apni sorchilen na" :)

Iddy Albatross said...

Hehe... hilarious one. Welcome (back) to India!

I'll be going through something like that tomorrow, have to drive for an hour one-side to my college, and my hands get plenty of honking exercise. I am NOT looking forward to the experience, though :)