Horns, Please

The Horn Please signs truckers’ in old days would display astern, amid mangled and loaded verse, to warn motorists of the sudden jaywalker determined to end up in the hospital morgue, were really a silent salute to a natural, general preference for relative quiet on the roads and sensitivity towards others’ well-being. The dignity, pride and expertise with which trained professional drivers, employed by the government and private parties, discharged their duties rarely allowed impatience to get the better of them, a far cry from the crude ways exhibited on Srinagar roads by a new breed  unable to shake off the euphoria of actually holding the wheel of a motor-car. The message of the old truckers’ signs must have transmitted itself down generations and intensified a hundred-fold in the process to unleash unholy urges of punching the horn button and jamming it down irrespective of whether the obstacle in the drivers’ path is a mad jumble at crossings and turns or a snarl two hundred yards long.

The irresistible temptation to announce one’s presence on the thoroughfares, even if the latter mostly proscribe anything beyond a crawl, also surfaces the moment speedsters find a fairly clear stretch and blare “get out of my way” at anyone foolish enough to venture a crossing during the brief traffic break, or a motorist taking the opportunity for a surprise u-turn due to some pressing need. The strength the follow-up to the city’s ritual of early awakening, constituted first of a prolonged and excruciating agitation of the spirit and then of a switch-over to more materialistic sounds, gathers with advancing hours resembling in many ways the times of when stray bovines outnumbered motor-cars, and instructors took special care to drill learners in techniques of passing stationery or moving livestock: never cross a horse from the front and a cow from behind, or the other way round, was an inalienable part of the driving curriculum. After the amusing reversal of roles now in effect, regulators and enforcers may be required to undertake surreptitious visual checks of motorists’ crowns as well to verify spikes more mandatory than a licence to have the run of the road.