10.8 - No-Horn "Athai"

Bhavin Jankharia

Background: This came out in December 2007, immediately after I tried this out as an experiment.

Matunga is famous for its “athais”, which are 8-day fasts that Jains undertake during “pajosan”, a festival of penance, which usually comes around Aug-Sept. A Jain fast means no food at all, just warm water. As a rule, the second and sometimes the third day are the most difficult, things becoming much smoother from then on.

My friend from St. Lucia (the laid-back Caribbean island I wrote about 2 weeks ago), was in Mumbai two weeks ago and driving comfortably on our roads. Since no one honks in St. Lucia, I asked him how he was able to manage. According to him it’s pretty easy...since everyone honks all the time in Mumbai anyway and no one pays attention, you can easily get by without honking.

He told me this as we were getting ready to go to the Thai Pavilion. I pooh-poohed him saying it was almost impossible to drive in Mumbai without honking...so he challenged me. We decided to test his hypothesis on our way from Matunga to Cuffe Parade. It was tough, but I actually managed to get there and back without a single honk. I then decided to continue this for as long as I could and last Friday, succeeded in my first “no-horn athai”.

To do this, I had to change the way I drive. First, I had to slow down a bit and then be very careful about not overtaking anyone unless there was clear space available. I had to keep a reasonably safe distance from the car in front, I had to give way to more aggressive drivers (very difficult) and I had to pay more attention to the pedestrians. For the first two days, I had to make a very conscious effort to prevent my hands from touching the horn button, but it soon became second nature. I finally reached my nirvana during a 2 1/2 drive from Prarthana Samaj to Taj Land’s End where there was bumper-to-bumper traffic from Prabhadevi to Mahim Causeway and not once did my hand even itch to blow the horn, even when people cut in from all sides, leaving me in a zen-like state of letting-go.

Anyway the 8 days got over on Friday. I was proud that I had managed to drive all over Mumbai without blowing the horn of my car even once. So guess what...I celebrated by coming home and....honking in the garage. Honestly though...it’s been two days now since the end of the “athai” and I still haven’t honked or felt the need to. It feels great. You just might want to try it out as well, and if you do succeed, do let me know how it feels.

Addendum: Quite a few readers wrote in saying that as a routine they or their spouses did not honk. We just bought a Skoda and the executive who was interacting with my wife told her that this particular model of the Laura in Germany came without a horn. That’s it! No horn, period! Now, that would be a great idea - to remove all horns from all cars.

Now, 17 years later, I pretty much don't drive in Mumbai. I have road rage issues and the simplest thing is to have a driver take me around.

Man From Matunga ChroniclesNoise