Tuesday, February 02, 2010
Horn please, we are Kochiites!
Incessant horn-blowing by Kochi’s drivers jangles the nerves and shatters mental peace
By Shevlin Sebastian
One day, while I was travelling along National Highway 47 on a Honda Activa scooter, at Kochi, a motorbike came up behind me and suddenly the driver pressed the horn so loudly that my whole body jerked forward and I almost lost my balance. Then the driver sped past me.
Usually a mild person, I became angry. I chased the motorbike, pushing my poor scooter beyond its limits. When I came near him, I pressed hard, so that my horn would startle him. Unfortunately, I pressed the starter button and no sound came. By then he had streaked forward again.
The reason why I missed the horn button is because I may be the only person in the whole of Kochi to never blow the horn, whether on the scooter or in the car. Is it a difficult thing to do?
Not at all, especially if you are on a two-wheeler. And yet all over the city, drivers in two, three and four-wheelers are incessantly blowing their horns.
It is the rudest act on the road. It bespeaks a lack of respect towards others and, most probably, a lack of self-respect. It is a display of crassness and contempt.
And it adds immeasurably to the difficulties of travelling. As it is, buses, tipper lorries, trucks, cars, auto-rickshaws, motorbikes, and barking dogs make such a cacophonic sound that it is the rare person who travels on Kochi’s roads and remains sane.
What adds to the aggravation is the lack of road discipline, the constant desire to cut corners, and to ‘show the finger’ to the drivers of the other vehicles: the ‘Me Superman you idiot’ attitude.
But, at least, they can go easy on the horn. Once on a deserted street, a car is coming from the opposite side. I am once again on a two-wheeler. It is broad daylight, and still the driver blows the horn incessantly.
“What is the reason?” I shout and gesture with my hands. “I can see you, you can see me.” But he just whizzes past without acknowledging my protest or frustration.
Why can’t we, of the middle class, supposedly cultured and aware, at least desist from blowing the horn? But I find that car owners are the most blatant in using the horn.
Nouveau riche owners, maybe, who want to show off their Honda Civics and BMWs. They also can’t feel the effects of their actions: they sit ensconced in air-conditioned comfort.
And what about those brash young bus drivers, who drive their vehicles, as if they are two-wheelers, hurtling the bus across lanes? It sends heartbeats soaring and sweat glands to work overtime. And the air horns that they use? Is there a more painful experience than to listen to an air horn in full blast in the midst of heavy traffic?
I am sure when we die, and the sinners among us go to hell, we will feel at home. Because Kochi’s traffic is already HELL on earth!
In desperation, I now travel on deserted lanes. But, unfortunately, there is always an ambush waiting in some leafy by-lane. A man will suddenly blow his horn for no reason.
Of course if a pretty woman is walking down the street, it is inevitable that he will make a noise, startling the poor lady and, yours truly, who is trying to appreciate her beauty in goggle-eyed wonder.
How times have changed! Fifteen years ago, Kochi was such a placid place to live. The traffic was far less, drivers were polite, nobody was trying to outmuscle each other on the road, and life was less taxing on the nerves. Unfortunately, things will never be the same again.
The city has irrevocably become an overcrowded metro.
So, what then is the solution for the chaos on the streets?
Green vehicles, please. At least, the noise of the engines can be cut down that way.
As for those maniac horn-blowing drivers, ‘shoot at sight’ orders to the police would be a welcome solution.
The fewer monsters in the world the better!
(The New Indian Express, Kochi)