It is a fact that we all are in love with their personal mobility vehicles, I mean the cars or bikes? Are you one among them? Don’t be shy, I too love my car. Is it not a reality that in whichever direction you look on the streets, roads, highways and lanes, you just find cars and cars and more cars, as if you are negotiating a sea of cars? It is a common sight that the entire city is inundated with cars of all makes and sizes. When you are out there on the roads, the roads simply vanish and become invisible, since the entire road space is occupied by cars moving bumper to bumper with almost no space between them. All thanks to the generous loan schemes of the banks as well as finance companies that offer liberal sums of money at cheap rates of interest for the purpose nudging one to become a proud owner of a car, as soon as one can afford a loan (not the full cost of the car!). All one has to do is pay a very small sum as cash down payment. Would you believe that Delhi has the highest number of vehicles in the country and the number exceeds eleven million? Out of this there are 3 million cars and 4 million two-wheelers and the rest are autos, trucks, commercial vehicles.
Apart from the air pollution that these vehicles cause, they are also a source of noise pollution. Contrary to our belief that only air pollution is deleterious, it has been conclusively proved in numerous studies that noise pollution is just as harmful. Constant and prolonged exposure to high enough noise pollution causes hormonal imbalance, heart disease, impaired memory, slow learning, sleep disorders, mood swings among many others. Of course, the children and the elderly are worst affected. Don’t you find the roads and public places a bit noisy? The noise is well beyond what your ears can bear. There is so much of noise pollution that the average decibel level is way above the safe limit for humans. Especially when you come from peaceful places the noise that greets you in the cities is too much and you feel that your ears will explode anytime. You soon realise that the noise is all too pervasive and that there is nothing much you can do to alter the situation except to bear its harmful effects and fret in silence. One fine morning a simple thought germinated in my mind. Given the above facts and out of pure concern for the environment, I decided not to horn all the way to my office which is approximately 15 kilometers away. It has always been my habit to ‘walk my talk’, so this should be no different.
I got off to a pretty good start from my house and did not honk for straight one minute. Unbelievable? But true. Of course, one minute is a good measure as ‘we the people’ cannot resist honking even for a few seconds. Some even try to give it a musical touch by installing fancy horns or multiple presses of button. At the very first turn that I encountered, there was an overpowering urge to honk in order to alert any vehicle that might be heading straight towards me over the blind turn. The urge to honk comes from the fact that we do not cast an observant eye on the road ahead and try to negotiate the turn at high speed without slowing down. Somehow, I got over this feeling and slowed down my vehicle to a very safe limit and simultaneously cautiously looked over the turn for any stray animals or vehicles that might be coming crashing into me. A keen observant eye and slow speed did the trick saving me from honking randomly and blaringly. So much so for the first test which I passed with flying colors. I wondered what lay ahead for me as there were still a number of twists and turns and traffic signals until I reached my office. What surprises and shocks would be sprung at me and when I wasn’t sure but certain that these would occur sometime soon? I had already turned on left turn indicator and was about to take the turn when a speeding SUV overtook me from the left at great speed before I could take the turn. For a few seconds my heart beat so loudly and erratically that I could almost hear the heartbeats. I felt as if my heart would jump out of my body. The vehicle did not touch mine but scared me down to the core. The resultant fear gripped me but did well to calm myself in good time. My hand went almost involuntarily and impulsively to the horn panel to blow out the emergency horn which I did. Afterall, this is why any vehicle is provided a horn that serves as a safety feature to be used sparingly and in such emergency situations. I thought to myself that there will always be irresponsible drivers who do not care about anyone’s life including their own.
Next came a long traffic signal. The red signal was visible from a distance and there was a pile up of cars left right and centre. Though I was under self-inflicted vow not to honk, but some unscrupulous drivers around me did not have any compunction of any kind. They blared their noisy horns even while the entire traffic was stationary and the red signal was quite clearly visible. Only God knows, what made them so impatient even while the signal was red. I could not fully comprehend what caused them to display such an unruly and disorderly behavior at an obvious place like a stop signal. After a long wait the signal turned green and everyone implored their vehicles to move forward. Even while the traffic had started moving, motorists were in a rush to get ahead of the others and in the ensuing mad rush they honked continuously. It was absolutely disheartening to see the behavior and contemplate the mindset of my fellow drivers who could even be well educated and coming from civilized families. Even though there was no end to the chaos and noise pollution at that moment but I was happy from within in a different way. I stood ground by not giving in to the mad urge to honk at every moment like others did. I just wondered if I could withstand the urge to honk, so can others. The noise pollution is just a behavioral problem. I have seen people honk even while the street is empty, what can be said about them. What comes over them when they occupy the driving seat is thoroughly beyond my imagination. In my limited capacity I can only say that it seems they have been possessed by some evil spirits. Otherwise what else can explain numerous cases of road rage that we witness every day? I just hope that the evil spirit pardons the drivers and vanish in thin air for only then will they behave in a civilized manner and quit irresponsible honking.
I reached my office with just a single incident of honking and that too in an emergency situation for which a horn is actually provided atop vehicles. Not a bad start for a place like Delhi. I proved to myself that horns can be used judiciously, not honking unnecessarily and thus saving humanity from unpalatable noise. I wonder if horns come with an expiry date or predefined number of hours of use, say 50 hours or 100 hours, after which these are rendered useless and money would need to be spent to install a new one. This might motivate people use it sparingly and relieve us of the noise pollution.