Sound Horn (Awaz Karo)

Sound Horn 

Noise pollution is sanctioned… no… the correct word is mandated, by the Government of India.  Amazing but true.  In addition to permanent registration, insurance certificate, driver’s licence and pollution under control (PUC) certificate (yeah, right!), you must have some version of “Sound Horn” (Blow Horn, Horn Please, Awaz Karo, Awaz Do) and a “slogan” (my favorites are “We Two Our One” and “One Family One Tree”) painted on the back of your commercial vehicle before you can get a “free to operate” permit from the Regional Transport Office (RTO).  It is a matter of safety.

Sound Horn1

Most drivers in India never have to take a driving test in order to get a license.  Some people are “gifted” a license on their birthdays or graduation, others “pay” for them.  Traffic regulations are rarely enforced except as additional income for traffic police or people impersonating them.  One-ways are multi-ways; people make turns (including U-turns) from wherever they happen to be; and any shortcut is fair game, whether they are footpaths (sidewalks) or happen to cross a multi-lane freeway. (In Delhi, footpaths are built about a foot above the level of the road, but still, whenever the footpaths have ramps, there is sure to be a motorcycle using it.) 

Sound Horn2

Rear-view mirrors are a rarity, and even if your vehicle has them, they are rarely used.  So, every vehicle must sound their horn in order to notify the pedestrians, ox carts, cyclists, cycle rickshaws, motorcycles, auto rickshaws, cars, busses, trucks and the animals (dogs, cows, buffaloes, goats, and sheep) that you are behind them and about to pass.  The pedestrians, ox carts, cyclists… have no qualms about entering a roadway without looking at what is coming behind them and waiting for the opportune moment.  In India – that moment will never come.  So, it is up to the people and vehicles behind you to signal their presence as you blindly enter at whatever speed you happen to be walking, riding, driving. 

Please Sound Horn

Every day, the horns get louder and louder – ear splitting loud.  The worst offenders are the buses.  Government buses are put into service without the requisite mirrors or windshield wiper blades because someone has pocketed the money that would have paid for them somewhere along the way.  Whether private or government run, the drivers of buses are homicidal (there is no consequence to hitting a vehicle – the drivers simply have to get away from the soon-to-form mob and flee the scene of the accident) – you must get out of the way, particularly if you are driving in the opposite direction, or risk death.  The air horns on these buses are blown constantly, as drivers pass anything and everything in their way, even if they are stopping just in front of the passed vehicle.  All large commercial vehicles have a driver’s assistant whose primary job it is to lean out the window on the passenger side and excoriate pedestrians, ox carts, cyclists… to move out of the way.  In narrow by-ways, these driver’s assistants may even give people a push. 

The second worst offenders are the young, hot-shot motorcyclists, who ride way too fast, weaving in and out of traffic with their thumbs permanently on the horn.  It doesn’t matter where they are, what time of night, or whether there is anything on the road that could possibly move – their horns trumpet their macho presence.  The truck drivers aren’t so bad in comparison to the bus drivers or the hot shots, but when they want to pass, you’d better get out of the way. 

This honking, ringing, tooting and clanking are so ubiquitous that people expect you to sound your horn, even when they can see you coming, and complain if you don’t.  Noise pollution is so high (bhajans blaring from every temple during festivals, movies played at speaker-distorting levels, political sloganeering blasted from hired auto rickshaws) that people’s normal speaking level is the equivalent of shouting anywhere else. 

One piece of travel advice for people coming to India – bring ear putty – normal foam ear plugs will not do.  


7 Responses to “Sound Horn (Awaz Karo)”

  1. 1 diana February 7, 2007 at 12:08 pm

    Lol, this is a funny post. Mostly true I guess but it isn’t like that ALL the time is it? Maybe I have grown used to it/immune to it since I have lived in India all my life… or maybe I’ve just not seen what its like in cities outside mine. I hear Mumbai traffic is the worst? lol.

  2. 2 Hiren February 7, 2007 at 3:16 pm

    India will remain India in certain respects no matter how much we progress econmically. Sad but true.

  3. 3 yoomilee February 8, 2007 at 9:11 am

    Hi Diana and Hiren,

    Diana – where do you live? The noise really is ubiquitous in any city in India, big or small. Since I’ve been in Varanasi and am now in Delhi, and am traveling around in Autos and such, I am noticing it more. I forgot to mention the simultaneous blasting of horns at a traffic signal just before the light turns green. A friend who lives in Baroda says that the speed of light can be measured by the time it takes for the honking to start and the light to turn. 🙂

  4. 4 diana February 8, 2007 at 8:47 pm

    I live in Delhi 🙂 I hope you like it here. I think the red light noise has gone down a lot since they made it illegal to honk at red lights, but you’re right just when the light turns green EVERYBODY starts. I think they do well to restrain themselves while the light is red and just take the last bit as their reward for being law-abiding citizens 😉 Hehehe. That line from your friend in Baroda is HILARIOUS!

    Got to your blog through MBJ, btw. 🙂


  5. 5 Alamin June 13, 2011 at 4:16 am

    Only one thing i like about India is excellent culture and hard working peoples and honesty.

  6. 6 Alamin June 13, 2011 at 4:20 am

    The development of India is one the hands of the ministers but they all are cheaters and greedy.

  7. 7 Rory Smith March 25, 2013 at 11:49 pm

    Good post sir.

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