Road Series. Stop Listen Go !

Red. Amber. Green.
Stop. Listen. Go.

But..listen ? Where did that come from ? When the signal is changing from red to green, it doesn’t do so with a Zubin Mehta flourish or a clash of cymbals by a live orchestra ! What does one listen to ?

This was clicked at a junction in Madurai. Now, you may want to think that the populace of Madurai is so musically inclined that even traffic signals are opportunities to demonstrate a keen ear.

I hate to disappoint you. The keen ear is restricted, by and large, to the loud cacophony of horns, engines and tyres as motorists get ready to zip, fantasising a formula 1 track ahead !

I inferred that ‘Listen’ seemed to be a literal translation of the tamil word ‘ ‘gavani’ ( Pay attention) !

But there is another theory. In fact, another fact. Which i present to you.

In Madurai they had a practice of policemen wielding microphones. Traffic cops. And they shout into the microphone with the huge speakers amplifying it for everybody in this street. And the next two streets too !

Examples abound.

“You in the white car, that’s a no parking area”
” Oye Rickshaw, keep moving”
” Yellow shirt, walk on the pavement, not on the road” etc !

The first time i heard this, i thought it was super cool. And they even built a perch for the cops to place themselves in, get a vantage view and speak into the microphone.

And the cops were a pretty happy lot too. At least their faces seemed to say that. They didn’t have to blow the whistle. All they had to do was to shame a person ! “Oye you in the white shirt, cant you understand simple language ? Are you educated….. ?”

If at all i had any problem, it was this. That they had many speakers in many streets. With one policemen doing the rounds. Obviously in one street at any point in time !

So you know what happens !

‘Oye yellow shirt’, the speaker amplifies, ‘walk on the pavement’. And every gent around, in a street many corners away, does one thing for sure : checks the colour of his shirt & looks for the pavement !!

‘Rickshaw’ he bellows into the microphone, chastising one rickshaw puller who seems to have broken a no parking rule ! The entire neighbourhood reverberates with his booming voice. And rickshaw pullers in the entire vicinity tidy up their act !

Suddenly “Stop. Listen. Go” makes sense.

Do you think this can be adopted as some kind of a standard operating principle in the world ?!! Hmm !

20 thoughts on “Road Series. Stop Listen Go !

  1. dinu says:

    never heard of something like this !!!

  2. Priya says:

    It shud be LOOK isn’t it. U don’t listen other than looking when u drive.

    Listen may deal to politicians and so called speakers who make it hard for people to follow their own signs.

  3. Aleta says:

    From the description, a three-ring circus came to mind! The speakers, the police, the lights, the directions, oh my!

    Amber, what a pretty name to what we typically call yellow. The yellow light is for “caution” in the States. I had to smile at the “listen” sign and I enjoyed reading the reason behind the word!

    Thanks for sharing this.

  4. Oh! So the role of traffic police is getting more and more pronounced! Stop. Listen. Go. is funny:) Maybe it should be changed to Stop. Roll. Go.:)

  5. Kavi you always amaze me with your perspective and sensitivity to your surroundings..I enjoy reading your blog!! keep writing…

  6. well, if those policemen used such generic descriptions, it should would help them cope with a lot of traffic all at once!
    Its interesting that people are supposed to listen only when the light is yellow…. that would be the time when they would actually start revving up their engines or scuttling across the street before they get mowed down!

  7. Jairam says:

    Nil, Gavani, Sel, kku oru vilakkam aa?? Idhellam romba too much nanba!!!

  8. amreekandesi says:

    Fascinating stuff.

    Here in New york, cops have these mics in their cars. Occasionally you will hear a cop tell someone to do something on his speaker. But then, that is the norm, not the rule.

  9. Sanjeev says:

    Top post Kavi!

    I couldn’t help laughing thinking about those ‘mic cops’ of Madurai. I dread those guys’ capacity to inflict personal, intimate shame ‘in public’. I’ll give you an example: I was in a car with a freind in Madurai, and he stopped a few yards after the stop line at the traffic lights. We know it is no major crime, but much to our horror,and to the general public amusement, the Mic-cop started talking down to us in a way, can only be described as an ‘affectionate brother’ would do to his younger brother, with some choice reprimands in Tamil. We were so ashamed, I remember, it was almost as if we did something silly in national telly.
    Having said that, I prefer those ‘affectionate brothers’ of Madurai, to the inanimate big-brother cameras, which will spot you doing something naff, and send you a fine, days later via post!

  10. Jeevan says:

    gavani” this word resound me ‘paadatha gavani’ what my mom used to tell when teaching me school lessons.

    Oh. That’s a puzzle and pause feel when calling someone in by public in unusual sound.

  11. Pearl says:

    Kavi, we need this here, especially if the policeman will also say “oy!”
    “Oy! Blue shirt — no spitting!”
    “Oh! Yellow shirt — do not ask that woman for spare change! There is no such thing as spare change!”


  12. KK says:

    I seen this kinda policeman shouting in T.Nagar, Chennai during diwali and other festive seasons, especially where are huge crowds to manage.

    But Listen for gavani was too much!!!!

  13. manju says:

    Kavi, this I have to see for myself! I just have to visit Madurai now!

  14. mochachilo says:

    haha .. im sure ‘listening’ to the police is far more effective than ‘reading’ signs – you suddenly include the illiterate, and bring about public wrath!

    amazing stuff .. i hope they roll this out across all metros!

  15. ~nm says:

    All your posts are so interesting. Always something new to think and ponder over.

  16. nsiyer says:

    What do I say – you capture all sorts of things. I am dumbstruck – hence silence is golden. Keep going!

  17. Kavi says:

    Dinu : Now that you have..!!

    Priya : yes..and it would fit politicians to the t!

    Aleata : Thank you !! And my conclusion behind the plausible meaning is just conjecture ! Not official.. yet !

    Naperville Mom : Stop Roll Go !!!!!!!

    I had such a roll with that comment !!!

    Gaurav : Thanks so much chief for that comment ! I get by with appreciation of that sort ! Thanks a ton !

    Roshini : The generics always have a problem as well ! ‘Oy white car stop right there…could mean all white cars coming to a halt. And then you know what happens !!!

    Jairam : Mannichukonga ! nan paatukku sidela suthirean !! 🙂

    Amreeekandesi : You can direct them here to this post. Maybe they would get an idea or two !

    HObo : with what ?

    Sanjeev : Big brother !! Thats super cool ! I mean they shamed you like that…

    Well, well, well…i have company !


    Jeevan : So do you sing well ? If you mom is to be believed .. !!

    Pearl : Spare change !! Ofcourse,t here is no such thing as spare change ! Will pass this script to him !!

    KK : I thought as much !!

    Manju : You bet ! It is something to the eye. And oh the ear as well !

    Mochachillo : All metros..!! Well, thats something ! That would really be something !!

    NM : Thank you so much !!

    Ns Iyer : Sir, thanks a ton !!

  18. ashok says:

    one cant miss the cops voice in town hall road as u said…”aae manjaa satta…rotula nadakatha”…”aae sehapuu marutee..nikatha..poikitae iru…” 🙂

  19. Wendy says:

    My husband would say this would be the perfect job for me. LOL

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