A few weeks ago one of my German friends, Juergen had come over to India. I spend a few days driving him around and showing him places. Well as for any foreigner, it did take a while for him to trust the way we drive – it progressed from a scary horror thriller to ‘I don’t know how, but I won’t get hurt’.
One of the things he was confused from day one and something that he never quite got used to is our seemingly random honking. One time he asked, "Last time when we went on this road you honked at least once every 5 seconds, but now you didn’t honk for an hour – why?". Well he hasn’t quite caught up to the method in all the chaos and I see that there is no research paper or an authentic guide on honking in India available anywhere. So I have decided to take up the challenge and here you go.
This particular type of honk is usually of short amplitude and used with high frequency. It is a very polite way of telling the others on the road that you are ‘there’. It is kind of like an animal marking its territory. The meaning of it varies with the size and species of the vehicle too. If it is a bus that is using it, it means – if you cross my path you are dead. If its a motorbike – if you cross my path I am dead. All other variants come in between.
This is a rather impolite but effective way of abusing your fellow road users. It is second in frequency only to Presence honking. A major ego boost, this helps you to declare to the people around you, that you know everything there is to know when it comes to driving (and maybe more). This is best done in short bursts of very high loudness and honk-length.
This is used in many different scenarios at the traffic light. One use is when you think that the person in front of you is blind and has not started moving yet when there is only 5 seconds to go for the light to turn green. Another is rather supernatural or spiritual. It is based on the belief that if you honk a few times, the red light will turn to green faster. It doesn’t harm to try, does it?
This is even more polite than variant 1. A very polite way to enquire whether you get the right of way. It is used while you try to overtake or is not sure who has the right of way in an intersection. The answers you get and the manner in which you get them can be very varied. You must have the presence of mind to choose the appropriate path of action very quickly or alas you are again dead.
Ok, this happens usually when you are annoyed with your boss, or had a quarrel with your spouse. You use this horn to vent out your inner troubles. But be very careful as to when you use this. If timing is wrong this type of honking can be easily mistaken for any of the above four variants and cause unexpected shemozzles.
Yup, that would have prepared you a bit to take on the roads in India. Now all you need is quite a huge amount of courage and a lot of luck. All the best!
PS: They should start giving out PhDs for mastering driving in India. It has so much of science, art and psychology in it!