Indians are a horny lot; we just love to honk. It is not uncommon to see a car moving on a deserted road with nary a man or animal or any other moving object in sight; and the driver of the vehicle pressing the horn every now and then. Why? Several reasons are given in this article; but, the main one is that the sound of our own horn restores our confidence in our driving ability. Those who witnessed the last FIFA World Cup were amused to see the South Africans pull out a long instrument with weird sound called the Vuvuzela with which they greeted anything of interest on the field. Well, it is the same with the Indian use of the horn on the road. Honking is a celebration of our freedom.

The number one use of the horn is the proclamation of the desire to move faster. We are convinced that accelerator and horn are to be pressed together. Accelerator makes us go faster without any assistance from others; but, the horn declares to all and sundry that we are in a hurry. So, then, why don’t they hear us and give us way? Simple, because they too are in a hurry and pressing the horn equally blithely. We may be in the midst of a huge traffic jam (caused more often than not because of our curious driving skills); but, we are convinced that somehow the incessant honking would brighten up things.

The second use is to tell all the people around that we can see things more clearly than them. For example, ours may be the farthest vehicle from the traffic lights; but, the nincompoops ahead of us need to know that we saw the lights turning green before them. Similarly, if we see an opening in the slow moving traffic (which is always the case) we must indicate to the ignoramuses that a detour to the pavement would make them and consecquently us reach ahead of the slow-moving lane.

Then there is the frequent honking to drive some sense in the driver whom we suspect is intending to take advantage of us; eg, by slowly edging towards our lane which he perceives is moving faster than his lane. Also, if he too is eyeing a spot in the traffic that gives the person some advantage (maybe a few feet) vis-a-vis others around, we must bring home the misconception to him. Finally, if he is heading towards the only parking place that we had viewed much before him, shouldn’t we claim the spot like the Arizona gold-hunters? It is just a natural instinct – no big deal.

The above are types of specific honking with specific aims, however unattainable these might be. However, there is one general honking, very regular, loud and may sound irritating. It is to tell people around us how important we are and how unworthy they all are. During the days of the rajahs, when the rajahs used to move on elephants, they used to have footmen walking in front blowing conches and horns to signify the king’s arrival. Because of austerity measures and also because of the speed of vehicles, it is not possible to have footmen walking in front of their vehicles announcing their arrival nowadays. Hence, these modern day monarchs have to rely on vehicle horns. What is wrong with that?

Honking is also used to bring home others’ mistakes. For example if the vehicle ahead of us is stopping to let pedestrians cross, we have a choice either to overtake him and wade through the unruly lot; or we can honk and let the vehicle ahead realise the wrong he is about to commit. What is wrong with that? It is just a natural instinct. Also, when our lights are turning red and the across lights are turning green, shouldn’t we honk to indicate to the uncouth lot that we are allowed to cross until a few seconds after the lights have turned red, following the trail of those who are crossing in green lights? Shouldn’t they wait?

Some honking is just to break the monotony of the journey. Have you ever thought of how boring a drive is without honking; everybody minding their business, everybody giving way to everyone, everyone keeping to their lane etc? It would make people go to sleep and make them less alert. Such societies with such niceties are doomed to dullness. Indians are the only brainy people who have realised that some entertainment, fun, challenges, surprises are really required whilst driving to keep you awake. The expression, “There is never a dull moment” was born as soon as they introduced driving in India and a great part of it is to do with the horn.

Lastly, what do you do with things that you have paid good money to buy? If you have bought a TV set, would it serve anyone’s purpose if no one plays it? Similarly, if there is a horn in the vehicle, isn’t it wasteful expenditure not to use it? Can a poor country like India afford such wasteful expenditure?

Please note I have not even recorded such legitimate honking as after winning a match or during processions; or to express joy at finding no cop; or a lorry, bus or cab driver sighting his gaanv wala (country-cousin); or to regain a spot that you previously held in a lane when you moved to the other lane erroneously thinking traffic was moving faster there.

So, next time when you tend to get amused or irritated by Indians compulsively honking, think of all the purposes it is serving, including national interest. Don’t just be judgmental because you don’t know the aims of this glorious obsession we have with the horns. We could be wearing them, you know.

© 2011 – 2013, Sunbyanyname. All rights reserved.

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  1. Ha ha ha…it is our birthright and according to the Constitution, a fundamental right also…freedom of expression, albeit a little modified!

    1. Honking is not the only “freedom of expression” that we have. You have given me ideas now; I should write about all our “freedoms of expression” including the one which not only produces sound but even pungent smell.

  2. We Indians certainly are an impatient lot. Although I can’t complain because even I do the same…..usually we get in an an awful temper the moment we hit the road, and the horrible traffic condition hardly helps, although it does help us in loosing it. Absolutely loved the vivid depiction and the hilarious tone Ravi Sir….

  3. Thank you for this absolutely brilliant perspective on honking. Never imagined that one could look at honking in this way. From now on “honking is my birthright, no constitutional right, and I shall honk away.” 😀

    1. Atta boy! That’s the spirit. Go for it and win the Decibel Battle. Where do you want the medal to be sent to you?

      P.S. Sorry, it should have been Atta girl!

  4. Nicely written. I had to physically restrain my earlier driver from honking. In every bend he used to honk. I had to gave him an ultimatum. Many foreigners tell me India is an incredibly noisy place. They feel overwhelmed due to the amount of noise. I too get pretty irritated with the noise.

    1. Thank you. I too have come across compulsive honkers who’d honk even on a desolate road. If you want to experience real noise you have to visit Mumbai between Ganesh festival and Diwali.

  5. Superb….Humor with a lot of sense…:) When I used to work for an IT company in Chennai, I used to take the company bus back home. That moron(the driver) had the habit of honking the horn when he was the first in queue in front of a signal and the light was red…Now a vehicle in front might react to a horn.,..What can a signal do? Phew!!
    And sitting behind his driver seat I used to go bonkers with all that noise!

  6. I am sorry you stopped honking a bit prematurely while there were several pressing reasons still to be included in that list! Going by the repertoire exhibited by you I am sure you can write a follow up piece. Just do that!

    1. You have a way with words Umashankar, viz, “pressing reasons”. Shall not disappoint you but, do you know that already I write articles longer than people’s complete blogs?

      If you read the comments above, you will come across my resolve to write on Indians’ “freedom of expression”. You will certainly hear from me.