The next unicorn

The next unicorn

I arrived in Bengaluru yesterday and borrowed my sister’s car to go to my yoga class. By the time I finished and started driving back, the traffic had built up.  The red light was testing everyone’s patience. A barrage of horns began, initiated by a bus driver three vehicles behind me. I have a reputation in the family that I drive like a taxi driver – I couldn’t let them down. So, I joined in the honking fray.  A few seconds later, I realized that I was not making any difference - my car had a silent horn! 

I was impressed that my sister had the car’s horn disabled.  Perhaps she had read about the Pavlovian project that the Mumbai police had implemented. The higher the decibel level at a traffic light, the longer the light would stay red!  

For most countries, car designers strive to bring the highest audio quality and create an ideal listening venue for symphonies, musicals and such. Noise cancellation is central to their thinking. The Indian market throws a unique challenge to them.  Indian drivers rely on their horns to communicate with other drivers, pedestrians, animals and to just say hi! 

The experience of driving a car with a silent horn was novel to me and quite unique.  It was like being on mute on a conference call where everyone else was talking. What a contradiction – horns that produce no sound.  Disruptive as it allows the driver to communicate – express anger, frustration, happiness, support for a cause … without inflicting any sound terrorism on fellow roadies. Road hugging apartments, offices and homes would welcome the chance to suffer in silence.   

New product ideas bubbled up inside me. How about a very low frequency horn operating just under the human hearing frequency that could be programmed based on your cultural or religious leanings? Just download a tune, mantra, chant or whatever else and you can make the roads more conducive to calmness and meditation.  Less irritation, less stress and less road rage.  Boards that said, “No Horns Please” could be simply repurposed to say, “Horns Please”. All the angels and venture capitalists in Bengaluru would compete to fund this startup.  Surely, they have all been victims of noise pollution. Surely, this can be the next unicorn!

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