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India - Honking as the sound of the future

Aktualisiert: 11. Dez. 2019

List of road users in India:

- tuktuk

- car

- truck

- bus (normal)

- bus (crazy colours)

- tuktuk

- motorbike

- bicycle

- unicycle

- tuktuk

- rikshaw

- tuktuk

- human

- hawker

- cow

- tuk

- tuk

- dog

- horse

- horse with pink hooves (marriage)

- camel

- elephant (!)

- madness

In India the future of traffic technology has already begun. Although being an order-addicted European you might get a different impression at first, hardly being able to do other than going through the classic three steps of Indian street experience: disbelieving amazement, constant fear of death and finally a slightly boisterous fatalism. In the beginning, puzzled from what you see, you wipe your eyes (it might be the dust as well). Next, and especially as a pedestrian, you ask yourself how to survive this. Only to find yourself at some point jumping onto a driving rikshaw with a madman‘s laugh.


The street creed of India seems to be similar to the one of lousy action movies - the only rule is: there is no rule! Everyone keeps driving all the time. Every nanometer of free space between you and the vehicle or cow in front of, next to or behind you must be used to the maximum extent to keep moving. Here traffic policemen are tragic figures, walking jokes, sisyphosses in uniforms. Lethargically they stand in the heat, waving dully with one arm from time to time, not really believing themselves anyone would take notice. Why would they? Traffic lights, warning signs, who cares? Everyone keeps pushing and worming ahead like marbles in a hopper and indeed, one after the other slips onwards. Now you might be thinking: „but there is one rule, everyone sticks to: driving on the left“. Far from it! Left-hand driving is rather being seen as a recommendation. If there is too much traffic jam on the left, why not check if it is quicker on the right? Into the oncoming traffic. Without raising an eyebrow. Honking.

Which brings us to the probably most important feature of Indian traffic: honking. Everyone is honking, constantly. Honking cascades from hell are killing your hearing, your brains and every capability to feel anything at all. Differences in pitch and volume might stand for different castes of the honkeer. You can‘t tell. And you can‘t ask either, as you wouldn‘t understand a single word anyway due to all the honking. It‘s also possible that horns in Indian cars function in a kind of a reversed mode: they only stop honking, when you press them.

It seems hard to believe streets are not generally and constantly full of accidents. Until you start to understand: Indian traffic regulation is ahead of its time. In Europe someday in the distant future self-driving cars will be virtually connected all the time, letting all road users constantly know the exact location of all other road users and in which direction they move. Thus a maximum of interconnectedness will prevent most accidents from happening. In India this is reality already. Instead of a complicated data transfer system needing expensive technology, here the same principle is being applied but working on an acoustic level: by constant honking of everyone. This enables a permanent acoustic orientation within the surrounding terrain, just like bats do. Thus the road user not honking is invisible. Not honking is a kind of carelessness that you just can‘t allow yourself on the streets of India. Unless you‘re a cow. Luckily that means you‘re sacred.

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