Sound horn!

The image above shows a British road sign. It means “Don’t sound your horn unless absolutely necessary. Keep the peace!”

The attitude towards vehicular noise in India is somewhat different. Pro-horn signs and SOUND HORN messages along the roadside are common:

In the chaotic traffic a well timed horn signal could save your life, so honking is greatly encouraged. The sheer cacophony can make it confusing though. Sounding your horn can mean any of the following:

  • “I’m coming past. Stay on the left!” (aimed at tuktuks, motorcyclists, pedestrians, herds of goats)
  • “I’m coming around this bend in the middle of the road, watch out!”
  • “I’m overtaking you despite the oncoming traffic, try to make room!”
  • “I’m generally displeased at the amount of traffic on this road!”

An exception is cows in the road. You don’t honk at cows. You just try to find a way around.

In the UK you often see signs on the back of trucks that say something like “How’s my driving?” with a number to call for feedback/complaints. In India the sign simply says SOUND HORN. It means “If you sound your horn a lot, and I sound my horn a lot, we might just survive this journey without the unacceptable imposition of driving at a reasonable speed, wearing seat belts or staying on our own side of the road”.

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