The Car Horn

Quite like a rod would physically penetrate the chest, the sound of the car horn penetrated me. It hurt. It hurts whenever I hear a piercing loud car horn.

I am sitting on the terrace at home in a small town near Bangalore, called Udupi. The sound of traffic is constant almost all day long. It is loud specially when a train arrives and people board buses, autos with their particularly grating and rolling sound, and personal cars for the final leg of their journey. You see this road on which I have taken a place on rent, leads to the Udupi railway station. It is called Railway Station road in fact, and is actually very beautiful, with the overflowing bounty of greenery.

Not even a year has passed since I came here. Ten months back it was much quieter — or maybe I was then comparing with noise levels in Bangalore and Kolkata where I had just come from. Right now, while I write just this sentence, it is quiet. I can hear a variety of birds chirping.

They say, ‘be mindful’ (as in mindfulness practice). I find it easiest to be mindful of sound. To listen to a piece of music and notice each note of each different instrument is so deeply satisfying. It feels like the ear is taking crystal clear snapshots of falling droplets of sound. This is why car horns, mo-bike horns (not to mention the almost-criminal Bajaj Pulsars) are all the more unpleasant and jarring to me.

However, there is one thing that I am extremely grateful for. I have noticed while driving, at times someone behind me seeking to go ahead, honks a very short honk once or twice and leaves it at that. If I do not notice, they do not repeat themselves incessantly. Instead, they wait patiently for the opportunity to pass. This I have encountered only in Udupi-Manipal, not in the metros. In the general din of traffic it would be easy to not notice this polite request. It seems my attempts at mindfulness practice might have enabled me to notice it.

I am grateful that there are people who drive this way, with such decorum, despite the general trend of screaming on the road via the horns under our palms. To such people, when I do notice their gentle hoot, I give way immediately — feeling a silent appreciation for the stranger behind that driving wheel.

There are so many ways to be social, so many ways to participate in a community, so many ways to express the beauty in us.

View from the Udupi Railway Station leading into Udupi. On a peaceful afternoon right before the first monsoon rain.
View from the Udupi Railway Station leading into Udupi. On a peaceful afternoon right before the first monsoon rain.

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