It is ridiculously early in the morning here in Chennai – and it is probably the only time when it is really quiet (4 a.m.). Before too long there’ll be the assertive tinkle of a cycle bell turning the corner – announcing its presence to the world – “I’m here, be warned.” It is ingrained in anyone on a moving vehicle in this metropolis to “Sound Horn” – in fact it is a rule in the equivalent of the Highway Code in the country. How else will people know you’re turning the corner? I have a sneaking feeling that the reason for my lack of sleep is that it is so quiet.
After the bicycle there will be the moped – which you can recognise from the weak sound of its rather basic engine. The sheer effort of its revving capacity as the driver presses the little button that bleats is quite pathetic, but we all need to coexist. The motorbike (Hero Honda, Yamaha mostly) is more substantial – and the roar while never reaching the thunderous heights of a Harley Davidson is fairly powerful. It has a high-pitched beep and a short press is sufficient – the engine takes care of the rest. The auto-rickshaws of course press their rubber horns to make their annoying sound, the various cars that pass through all keep their palms pressed at the centre of their steering wheel. As for the singing horns of the bigger lorries, buses and trucks – they are loud, prolonged and intimidating as they are meant to be. In any given day, they can all pass by what’s known locally as a quiet, secluded street.
Get out into the main roads and add all these horns together and you have the cacophonic brilliance of hell – the persistent honking that goes on and on – even when there’s no scope to move an inch. This must definitely be one of the main causes of stress – heart attacks, strokes, digestive problems, diabetes, hearing difficulties, breathing problems, allergies, skin conditions and many more. I’m not joking. Perhaps the wise people who’ve walked this land for many thousands of years could anticipate the chaotic future when they recommended meditation and yoga – and as teachers tend to do, they ratchet up the challenge – so here we are being tested to the core. “Lets see if you can feel the peace now!” Breathe in right into your stomach. Just try. Haw…haw…haw..