When you look at a brochure of Benaras, oldest city on earth, land of a thousand only temples, abode of the mystics…and general dung heap , you see a shimmering Ganges… a spotless armada of ferry boats, and a couple of fat naked people and a whole lot of cows. However, what the brochures fail to show you , and trust me, this is important…is the roads of this city.
Roads are, some corny old architect by the name of Lutyens had said, the arteries of any city. Well, in that case Varanasi has suffered a triple bypass surgery, multiple transfusions, and an appendectomy(for no particular reason). The roads of this mighty old city have now been replaced by ditches. And unless this is an abortive bid by the city to host the next edition of the Paris- Dakar rally, it really doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.
But, India, as we know, thrives on non sequiturs. As far as the public of Varanasi is concerned, it gives them no joy to drive through a sandstorm, a couple of dunes, and a municipal gutter just to reach work. It, however, gives them great joy to be able to show off their most prized automobile accessories....no, NOT the 10,000 rupee Blaupunkt stereo system…the horn.
And this is where my rather deviantly styled title draws its blood from. Sorry to disappoint the more lecherous among you. I will really not be discussing horny people…yeah, logoff and go watch some porn. But, instead, I will be addressing that most ubiquitous medium of sound pollution…the car horn. They range from the mild tweeters… that go a gentle “please move out of my way”, to the woofers, that go, “fuck off you son of a….”
Now, what makes a Banarasi truly happy is the sound of his horn. And while there are indications of sadism-masochism in the typical banarasi…it doesn’t really matter if the horn is loud enough, all that matters is that the horn is painful enough, and pushed into action regularly. Most drivers revel in the pandemonium caused by the concomitant cacophony of cascading confusion (yep, so true….you get the picture…they like to blow their own horn a lot. Some benarasis are so happy at the purchase of a new horn they insist on showing it off, even if it is to an empty audience on a deserted road.
Others…simply have paralysed lef hands, a birth defect found in many people due to consumption of holy water from the ganges after birth. Yes well, these dead hands would need their co passengers to helpfully lif their hands up and over the horn, thus resulting in considerably lower sound emission…which, simply wouldn’t do at all.
I don’t blame anyone. In a city where motorists are competing for road space with dogs, cats, elephants, cows, and mutated frogs, they have every right to make every other species aware of their presence. I just hope that they wouldn’t really need to remind us all that often or as loudly.