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Mags – Indian horn culture

Mahad Travel Blog

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In Ireland, the use of the car horn is strictly frowned upon. It is considered the height of bad manners to wake up an early morning commuter who has not seen a light change or to chastise another driver for an illegal u-turn.


Indian trucks and cars, on the other hand, sport stickers asking all to 'sound ideal horn please ok'. There are three accepted uses for your horn in India. 1) In lieu of rear view or wing mirrors, and to warn pedestrians, cyclists, rabid dogs and sacred cows, the horn is used as a tracking device and beeped gently and repeatedly when in motion. 2) When overtaking, esp if there is a need for another vehicle to pull over, the horn becomes a little more insistent. Lastly, there is the death horn.

This is a monotone uninterrupted maximum volume blast which basically means 'I am coming, you are in my way and if you do not leave the road you are toast'. Once the horn is sounded, virtually any move is legitimate. It is basically a lot more useful than brakes. Which is why it is a little tragic that the Badger mobile has lost its horn and Return of the Chennai has only a terribly British polite pip. Also a little distressing is the wiring system means that our rickshaw horns which do not work when wet, bumpy or urgently required. The result is that we get frowns from other traffic for not honking at them.


I reckon after this trip I will be spending my Friday nights sloping off with a stolen '91 white Honda to speed around Blanchardstown Industrial estate honing my new found swerving, squeezing, honking and wheely skills. In the dark with pouring rain and no wipers. Can't wait. A marginally more likely possibility is that I will invest in a Vespa or 250cc bike and hit the roads.

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India today celebrates 60 years of independence. The land of democracy and Ghandi and Dell call centres. Tandoori, the caste system and popular social movements. From our very brief time here, it strikes me as a country filled with an energy different to anywhere I have ever been – spicy like its food humming with industry and determination and the sheer force of humanity.


It is an extraordinary assault on all senses at once and without pause – the smell of spices and rain and tuktuk fumes, the feel of potholes and monsoon damp, the sight of vivid vivid green, brighter than any of the 40 shades of the emerald isle and splashes of pink and orange and turquoise saris. The noise, endless noise. Rickshaws and trucks, Hindi pop and bangra, horns and shouts and the fans and air con of hotel rooms.

The taste of curries and fennel seeds and glycerine-rich Kingfisher Strong. It really does hit all the senses. Add to that the adrenaline rush of survival on the road and you feel really truly alive. (A one hour power nap on top of cumulative hangovers and sleep deprivation leaves you completely and utterly shattered so best just to keep alive)


We drive along sea of faces in the cities a manic frenetic mass of humanity on the move. In the countryside a mix of bemused and confused looks and rare flashes of delight. On the roads a whole mix of reactions. The ladies tend to be more reserved, the younger men full of cheer and jeer and waves. By rickshaw really an excellent speed to drive at – we average about 30 km a day which is enough to cover decent ground while still slow enough to make eye contact and laugh and wave and wonder at who is behind the faces.

. And take in the scenery which has been truly stunning. I was expecting a far more populated route with congolmerations of poor urban areas. Instead, we have driven through essentially national parks and wooded hillsides, alongside rivers and flood plains, tracing the path of beaches. Spectacular.


In general, the Indians don't consider this as mad a way to travel as we do. There is no sense that anyone is offended by our trip or dress sense or descent en masse into tiny villages. Nonetheless it is rare to see foreigners in most of the areas we are driving through. It is even rarer to see foreigners driving autorickshaws. Let alone foreign lady autorickshaw drivers. From Tamil Nadu 1500km away. Added to that the 10 days of media coverage and basically we get quite a lot of attention in towns.

Stunning scenery
Old and young and very beautiful ladies. Curious young men who drive alongside the rickshaw looking in and asking what your good name is. Small crowds at filling stations who look at the stickers and fittings and ask how much we will sell them for in Mumbai.


In some ways, we have seen more of India than you could ever hope to, off the beaten track and in our own time and vehicles. In the first few days, we had many breakdowns. And many more stops as we tended to drive not just at the speed of the slowest tuk tuk but with the cumulative delay of the mini convoy. On one early fuel fumble, while waiting on the roadside for the Pandits to fetch us an emergency litre, we were invited into a house by three elderly ladies to drink, eat and visit the shrine. Just on the side of the road, a random moment. A little vignette into their life and ours. No common language so only thanks and sign language and kind gestures. Although we pass many forts and temples, we have had only the occasional stop off at sites. Most stops are for chai and lunch and any other excuse to sample consistently excellent and cheap food. Each time new people and new negotiations through sign language.


In short, I really have to recommend this trip, folks.

Stunning scenery
Stunning scenery
The badgermobile is beginning to s…
The badgermobile is beginning to …
Breakfast
Breakfast
Dont sit on lit fireworks
Don't sit on lit fireworks
The farce is strong in this one...
The farce is strong in this one...
Not as much sun as we might have w…
Not as much sun as we might have …
Brad tucking into a Stud
Brad tucking into a "Stud"
Steve tucking into a Stud
Steve tucking into a "Stud"
So green it could be England
So green it could be England
The girls
The girls
Breakfast calling
Breakfast calling
There is a joke in here somewhere.…
There is a joke in here somewhere…
Mahad
photo by: Rickshaw