Thursday, June 3, 2010


With a population of over 1 billion, India is busy and noisy. The roads are another story . With all sorts of exotic traffic trying to get from A to B, everyone has a need to make themselves heard –loudy, persistently , all the time, everywhere. Every vehicle from a bicycle rickshaw to a train, makes itself heard . Diaphanously cacophonous ( is there such a word ?........ sounds good anyway ) is an understatement for the horn blowing, bell ringing, music blaring noise pollution which one is exposed to on India’s roads ( or shall we call them tracks ).
The journey to Bundi has its challenges. Apart from aforementioned noise and lack of peace, one faces endless hours of vehicular , animal and pedestrian obstacles allowing progress of only a mere 30 km/hr on average. Apart from all the common stray goats, holy cows, overloaded camel carts and diesel pumping tractor taxis , there are enormously and dangerously overladen trucks heading who knows where – Bhopal maybe ? Overloaded to more than double their width and height – so they protrude a full fifty percent into the adjacent oncoming lane. You have to see it to believe it. It is chicken playing game par excellence. It is the wild wild west.
The truck windscreens are gaudily decorated to within centimetres of their line of vision – so they don’t see the oncoming traffic anyway. What you can’t see , you just don’t have to worry about. Decorated with pom poms, luminous woollen tassles, streamers, garlands of real oranges, painted slogans and messages to the vehicles behind, tin cutwork, filigree etc. They are gaudy but loving works of art. And the horns ....well, these are no ordinary hooters as we know them in general civilisation. With one press of the horn the loudspeakers play an entire one minute dittiy at full volume .There are endless variations of these tunes and ditties , each driver having his own special unique signature in decibels.
The drivers ( who live in their vehicles as a mobile home and perform their daily ablutions very visibly along the way for all to see )have an attitude and an ego to mirror their lorry. They travel jauntily with attitude- elbows jutting from the windows, one hand barely on the wheel, grinning with their red betel stained teeth, they steer these amusement parks with alarming recklessness – all to the deafening shrill of hindi music at maximum volume.
My discerning queenly tastes and zen zulu approach to design and my love for less is more and pared down sophistication just can’t quite grasp this idea of beauty with all is loud garish excess and bling. But to the owners of these vehicles they are the most beautiful thing in the world, and they convey them with a badge of pride.
I enjoy the colours, the vibrancy and the pace first, but later, the slowness and noise starts to get me down , and to test my patience and I feel that latent defect gene commonly found in South African city dwellers ,called road rage, rear its ugly head. Unable to change anything about situation I make a conscious decision to travel resignedly , enjoy the mayhem , but secretly longing for the smooth ride of my silver beamer back home, with my cool bluesy jazz music, sun roof and a Woolies chilled lemonade.