The Roads are Alive With the Sound(s) of Music…
The HOn’ble Minister for Roads, Navigation, Potholes, Lorries, Engines, Automobiles, Scooters and Elevated Corridors, (or ’HORNPLEASE’ as his department called him when he was not around), sat on the floor of his balcony, high above the street, doing his morning yoga. (After all, if the President of the United States could be called ’POTUS’, why couldn’t the Hon’ble Minister for all of the above be called ’HORNPLEASE’?)
He blocked one nostril with his thumb and breathed in deeply through the other. Ah, the joy of doing pranayams before the business of the day began….
The Minister winced! Those damned power horns from the street below! No matter how high in the building he lived, those wretched sounds managed to find him! This was the tenth day in a row he had tried to find inner peace, and failed. Something had to be done!
It was then that the idea presented itself to him with all the force and clarity of… well… a power horn. — Why not replace all existing vehicle horns with those that emitted the sounds of Indian musical instruments instead? What a brilliant idea! This would be one for the books!
The Minister jumped up and called his secretary. A meeting was convened, tenders floated, and contracts distributed. And within just a few short months, the soundscape of the nation changed completely. Instead of the grating horns, the roads from Kashmir to Kanyakumari were now filled with the sounds of sitars, mridangams, tanpuras, tablas, shankhs, dhols, shehnaais, violins and harmoniums. Busy traffic intersections now sounded like my middle school music teacher, Mr. Thakaar’s, music periods. All the time.
Still not quite used to the idea of getting out of the way of a tanpura, many passengers found themselves unable to distinguish between an alaap and an oncoming vehicle. In the words of Parsadi Lal, the neighbourhood ironing man:
“The last thing I remember was the sweet sound of a sitar as the car crashed into my scooter. And then everything went dark. I don’t know how long I was out for, but when I awoke I felt light-headed and peaceful. It was then I heard soft beautiful music. I was sure I had reached svarglok….till I realized that was the sitar horn of the car that had hit me. It was stuck…”
Mercifully, Parsadi Lal survived the accident and suffered only a mild concussion. He now prefers to walk everywhere. He has stopped listening to music, for every time he does, he jumps out of its way.
Many months have passed. The good Minister, unfortunately, is still unable to sit on his balcony and do his pranayams in peace. The sound of power horns has now been replaced with the sound of a perpetual conductor-less orchestra.
Meanwhile, on the busy street below, a car is stuck in traffic. Naadswarams, flutes, jaltarangs and trumpets vie for attention. The driver of the car and his wife are discussing the effectiveness of the different musical horns around them. The driver shifts uneasily in his seat, and, unable to hold the build-up within, suddenly releases it with a long, resounding sonority.
His wife, sitting next to him, asks, “Does that count?”
“Im not sure,” the man replies, as both roll down the car windows.
(The above is a work of fiction loosely based on a disturbing news report that all vehicle horns will, indeed, be replaced with those that sound like musical instruments…)