Ever experienced a time when sitting in a peaceful place you heard a mosquito buzz right by your ear? Do you remember how irritating it felt?
What if the mosquito could make noise a hundred times greater and there wasn’t just the one mosquito but hundreds of them? Well, that’s how it feels like when I’m on the streets in my hometown Nashik.
That noise of a tiny mosquito which destroyed the peace was enough to create an urge in me to squash the bugger. I don’t feel very different when I’m driving in the chaos that unfolds on the streets in Nashik.
It’s not uncommon for those who come from abroad after having lived there for a few years to be sensitive to the excessive and unnecessary honking on Indian streets. It’s not uncommon because all that honking has measurable physiological and psychological consequences. A suffering that the locals have got used to – unfortunately, they don’t have an option.
Drivers describe being caught in a catch-22 type situation, where they honk to make others honk less or wait for the motivation to honk less to come from other people honking less. There are plenty of other reasons why people honk but frankly, they all seem like lame excuses.
What’s more worrying though is that honking isn’t a problem just on the streets, nothing gets done around here without getting angry about it. No one listens to you if you don’t shout. It’s a something that’s got etched into people’s psyche, especially those in the service industry.
At the restaurants, the waiter needs to be called out. At the food stalls, there is no respect for queues and the one who makes his order loudest gets served first. Even at home, polite requests made to maid servants are ignored; raise your voice a little and things get done.
Here’s an extreme example: The broadband internet connection at my place broke down one late evening a few of days ago. I promptly called the BSNL call center the next day and register a complain. I was asked to call back in 15 minutes to check back about the status of my complain. I did that and was told that there is problem in the line, those in the field will come to my place before lunch and fix the problem. This was at 9.30 am.
From 9.30 am to 5.00 pm, no one comes around. Multiple phone calls to the call center go unanswered and when eventually someone answers, they need to be given the history of the day all over again. After doing this a multiple times in a polite voice, I am ready to give up.
At 5.00 pm, my mum decides to enter the scene. Fortunately, someone answers her call. She starts with a polite request to ask for the ‘complaint number’ and the current status of the ‘job’. Unsatisfied by the response, she asks the call center woman to pass the phone to her superior. At this point, the woman raises her voice to defend herself. My mum knows losing her cool is the only way forward. A few minutes of angry exchange between the two ensues, at the end of which we are given the mobile numbers of the engineer and the lineman. Two more phone calls and 30 minutes later, the internet connection is fixed.
I am not proud to hear what my mum had to say afterwards – “This is the only way to get heard”.