Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Horn OK Please ... no more

I drive to Powai and back every week day now.  We are car-pooling with a lovely Bengali family who live near us here and Thane and whose 2 daughters are in 9th and 6th standard at BSS.

The first part of this school year was an exercise in extra stress that we just did not need as a family when it came to the bus service Asha and Enoch were using.  With this year both having different times - the bus started delivering them an hour and a half and even 2 hours after their school was up.  At times Enoch would arrive in the same bus as Asha, even though he left 50 minutes before her.  It was not a good scene and after some attempts to fix things, our dear fellow sufferers and us decided to opt out.

So now I either drop the kids off at school, leaving here at 7.15 and seeing them in school just before 8 and back here comfortably in time for our 9 AM morning prayers at JSK.   Or I go by after a quick bite of lunch at home, picking the kids up at 3.05 and being back just before 4 PM.

Either way, the Eicher Papaya is seen speeding its way along the Eastern Express Highway over to Powai each day.  Every day I slip through traffic and navigate the odd pothole, negotiate various speed breakers and see iconic sights like the salt pans and mangrove swamps, as well as the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (the dream of many an aspiring techie) and the Powai lake.

Yesterday, as I was in traffic, I looked at the back of a truck and saw an interesting sight.  On the back were two strips of brown tape.   I looked at the back of another truck near-by and saw the same.
I felt like laughing. All my life I have seen the backs of lorries in our dear nation of Bharat sport the gnomic statement seen on the truck below (image cheerfully harvested off the internet - though the truck is registered in Thane judging by the MH 04 license plate):

Well, what had me in stitches was that the trucks had all done this:  Horn OK Please.   The OK was still there - usually in the middle of course, but the 'horn' and the 'please' were efficiently taped over.

I thought it was only one crazy trucker, but then I started looking.  Almost every truck had done it.  Some had even painted over the offending words.

Offending you say?  Yes sir!

Earlier this year, the august folks who run our state decided that the roads were too noisy.  Too much honking.  Yes siree.  This has to stop.  But how?  Then a lightning bolt struck someone some where. Why not deal with the root cause?

Drivers honk in India because they are told to!  Every time they see the back of a truck - there is that terrible phrase "Horn OK Please" - the poor driver can't help himself (or herself in this modern day), s/he just has to honk.  The sight of the phrase triggers an instant reaction.  More noise.  Terrible.

So the same brilliant mind came up with a super-duper solution.  Ban the phrase!  Yes! Away with it.  Make it illegal.  No more to be seen.  Banished to the dark ages. And now peace and quiet will descend on the roads of Maharashtra.

You think I kid you, do you not?

Alas, I wish I did.  But the Maharashtra government passed an order banning this offending phrase in May this year.  That's right.  Along with eating beef, you better not write "Horn OK Please" on the back of your truck.  And if that horrible statement was there from time immemorial?  Well, you had better remove it.

I have seen a few cases where the offending words were painted over, but in most cases good cheap brown tape does the trick.  Two or three strips, cover the words and all is well in the world.

When I first read about this inanity I just thought no one would bother, and forgot about it myself.

But driving 30-45 mins each way, each day I see something very, very often.  It is a uniformed man waving to a truck or a van and having them pull over.  Or a uniformed man talking imperiously to two or three men beside a parked vehicle.   And I see hands giving gifts.  And I see the hands of the uniformed men going into their pockets and closing their note books.

If there is a 'law', then it will be 'implemented.'  Why should the truck driver have to give another Rs.100 in bribes because they still have 'Horn OK Please' on the back of their vehicle?   Much better to get some tape and begone with the 'bribe bait.'

And that, alas, is the story of our land.  Hundreds of laws that are selectively implemented.

We know wearing helmets save lives - so why do we see so many drive around without helmets in Thane / Mumbai?  Is it because I don't recall the last time I have seen a policeman wearing a helmet when he is driving a motorbike?

Strangely enough, the tape doesn't really seem to do the trick.  Maybe people are still reading through the tape - and the message poorly hidden is still triggering raucous, subliminal honking in the average Indian motorist?

I think we need a case control study - where we measure ambient horn-volume in Mumbai, with say another metro like Bengaluru which does not have such draconian law on the books.

In the mean time - happy motoring to all my fellow travellers - esp. along the Eastern Express highway.  The driver of the Papaya salutes you - and may give a friendly toot of the horn every now and then!  Please do not take offence....

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