Friday, June 26, 2009
Awaaz bachaye zindagi
I wrote some draft entries about Mumbai while working in the city which, for some reason or other, I did not post. I figured that I should so here is the first of what will hopefully be a short series on Sapno ka Shahar, the City of Dreams:
Mumbai vehicles operate by sound. Like bats they flit through the city navigating aurally, resorting to eyes only to confirm what the mind already knows is there.

Like bats, too, motorised
Bambaiyyas frequently stun unwary creatures that cross their path by emitting a sustained, high-pitched burst from their horns. Nary a day goes by that a careless walker is not chastised in such manner, accompanied invariably by additional vocalizations ('Bhenchod, marneka hai kya?', 'Jaldi upar jana hai kya, salaa?').

Sound is also used in communication between cars, with various types of honking representing different signals—
beep ('I'm here'), honk honk ('You should drive faster'), hooooonk ('Surely we can create one more lane next to you'), HOOOOONK ('The light doesn’t look that red') and so on—although they frequently coalesce into a general purpose, all-weather, plain honk.

In fact, there is no reason to believe that a local would not be able to drive through the city blindfolded and not hit anything, guided only by the toots emitted by other drivers and gauging distances with his own. Should he, by some unlucky chance, hit another vehicle it would probably be because the other driver was miserly with his honking and did not make his presence known well enough. And were he to hit a pedestrian, it would likewise be the fault of the latter for not heeding his signals.

Of course, horns are sometimes sounded even when there is no clear reason for such action. Perhaps this is done for purely for social purposes or in the belief that, like muscles, horns only get stronger with more use. But with so much depending on the horn it seems unwise not to take such precautions.

posted by Hong at 6:26 am | Permalink |