The vessels that make noise – City Buzz column (26 Aug 2011)

Every morning I am woken up by the double beep horn of my neighbour’s daughter’s school van. About quarter past seven every morning, there is an old Omni that screeches to a halt in front of my house in North Bangalore and the driver hits the horn twice for a second each. My neighbour’s daughter, the naughty girl that she is, starts wearing her socks at the sound of the horn and lazily gets ready. Within the next two minutes, the driver plays his trademark double beep again and the little girl comes running out. This is a daily routine, barring of course the weekends.

As city dwellers, the sound of horn is nothing new to any of us. The average commute to work is about an hour each way for a Bangalorean. If you choose to live in the apartments in Whitefield or the peace of Hosur, your commute is much longer. In the couple of hours we spend everyday, standing at traffic signals and racing vehicles, the sound of horn is ignored in the least and irritating at most. As a rider who knows that listening to anything on an earphone is a punishable offence in this country, horns of fellow motorists is the only music to my ear during drive time.

In all of the 4-5 years that I’ve been riding in Bangalore, I’ve had the fascination for the sound of horn. To me, honking habits are an indicator of one’s temper, patience, attitude and even moods. Different drivers honk differently in different situations. Observing them and noticing trends has helped me deal with the Bangalore traffic with much lesser complaining.

The-driver-waiting-in-the-first-row-is-always-an-idiot horn

At least 10 rows of cars and bikes are waiting for the green at a traffic signal. The moment it turns green, the car on the 7th row starts honking frantically and the others behind him follow suit. It would be stupid of me to assume that the driver in the 7th row does not know that it’ll take a few seconds for the cars in front of him to move.

Redundant as it may be, Bangaloreans definitely like to make some noise.

My-way-is-the-high-way horn

This is the gem of the peak hour traffic. Most often heard in areas where the roads do not have brick dividers, this honking is the sound of cars driving along the wrong side of the road. When there is a pile up of vehicles, a street runner puts his hand on the the horn through his complete ride on the wrong side warning everybody else to stay out of his way.

It’s most annoying if you are riding in the direction towards him, because he is sure to flash lights at you as well.

Don’t-make-me-stop-my-bike horn

This is the cutest and the most irritating of all honking I’ve heard. Riding on mopeds and TVS50s, mostly with large bags of flowers, vegetables or hens tied to them, these motorists make a screeching horn even while they are moving and there is space on the road. ‘Kreek’ sounds the horn with the driver making a face that looks like he is pleading for the vehicles in front of him to make way, as if he will never be able to go if he is stopped now.

This is the lowest horn in the food chain. This is a plea more than a warning or an order that most other honking sound to be.

My-bike-makes-the-loudest-noise horn

I’d blame this completely on the bigger, more powerful bikes on the roads these days. They have exceptionally loud horns attached to them, so loud it can put the Volvos and the Ashok Leylands to shame. Standing at a traffic signal, already having squeezed themselves through the little gaps between cars, these bikers make the most disturbing, loud, shrill noises on the roads.

If you ever happen to stand next to them, be warned. If they hit the horn without you expecting it, it can definitely make you skip a heartbeat.

 Every-nook-and-corner horn

Surprisingly, while I was learning to drive, my driving instructor told me that it is legally necessary to honk at every crossroads. I realised much later that it was utter rubbish, but looks like there are very many drivers still in the dark. Before taking any turn or even pass a junction, instead of looking around and moving on, they hit the horn and keep driving.

I always wonder what happens if the drivers from all sides of the junction just honked and kept driving. Scary, that!

Me-first-me-me-me horn

This is all of us. At cross roads, traffic signals, petrol pump queues, parking lots, most annoyingly the basement parking lots and everywhere else, the sole purpose of honking happens to be to go before everyone else. All the jazz about ‘right of way’ and ‘yielding’ is long forgotten. Big buses, heavy transport vehicles, sedans, SUVs, small cars, nanos, bikes, scooters, scooterettes, mopeds even the clinging bells of cycles – they all mean the same thing, that we all believe we are the ones that deserve to go first.

The next time you are restless and can’t stopping banging the horn, try to look around and observe fellow ‘honkers’. It’ll be funny, in the least.

Feel free to trash the article, if you see fit. Use the comments section! :)

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The vessels that make noise – City Buzz column (26 Aug 2011)

4 thoughts on “The vessels that make noise – City Buzz column (26 Aug 2011)

  1. Often thought about the “The-driver-waiting-in-the-first-row-is-always-an-idiot horn” category..Is it meant for wake up/start engine call from the ppl in the 2nd to nth row…? And imagine if your bike/car doesn’t start when the signal turns green..We are forced to push with leg and move out of sight!

    Happy birthday!

  2. V says:

    “The-driver-waiting-in-the-first-row-is-always-an-idiot horn” is an interesting observation.

    As much as I personally don’t do this, I have to point out, however, that there is another side to it (although that isn’t the focus of this write-up, strictly speaking). The driver waiting in the first row IS sometimes an idiot, and there’s no telling which one is and which one isn’t, so I would give the honker the benefit of the doubt.

    For instance, I used to travel with this long-time acquaintance of mine; she would do the driving. The windows will almost always be rolled up since the AC will be on, and the music system will be blaring inside; I used to keep reducing the volume and she would keep increasing it because she thinks that when you listen to music in the closed confines of your car, the higher the volume the better the effect! (Her justification was that the noise does not affect anyone outside, so she doesn’t have to reduce the volume for anyone’s sake.) I tried reasoning out with her that she would not be able to hear the sounds from the outside world, either, and that could be risky, and when she complained that I was beginning to be preachy, I had to shut up and stop travelling with her altogether!

    Now, she also has this habit of switching off the engine at every signal. From a fuel conservation point of view, it’s definitely a laudable habit, no doubt about that, but when you are in the first row at a signal, you must also remember to switch the engine on before the signal turns red. (After all, you can easily keep an eye on the count-down indicator and start the engine when it’s at 10 seconds or 5 seconds or whatever.) But No, she will not do that. Once she switches off the engine, she defaults to chatting mode and forgets that she is in the middle of traffic, so she doesn’t realise it when the signal turns green. Then, after hearing people honk frantically, she takes her own sweet time to switch the engine on, shift the gear, and get moving, WITHOUT stopping her chatting for a moment in between, while all the time I would be feeling very guilty to be holding up people behind us.

    Maybe in a subsequent write-up, you can write about driving habits, too. (Then again, driving habits in turn would also, to an extent, depend on the existing infrastructure itself, and Bangalore roads, especially junctions, are kind of peculiar! You have many six-road junctions, so at the same signal, there’s a “lefttu”, a “left shtraighttu”, a “right shtriaghttu”, and a “righttu”! The problem with this is that negotiating some of these turns can be regularly problematic for some vehicles with larger turning radii. So, one such vehicle at the first row in a signal is going to hold up several others behind it. No wonder Bangalore traffic is world-renowned—for all the wrong reasons!)

    1. That is a very valid point. I have to admit that I am very biased against drivers. I think any driver is insensitive and are really ugly on the roads. That is perhaps what inspired this article. That said, it is a strictly personal view. You are most welcome to trash it! :)

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