Sunday, January 29, 2012

Beg your pardon....?

The school I attended in Pune 50 years ago,  had vast grounds, old buildings, lots of sports infrastructure,  a residential section  for boarders,  and a busy neighborhood,  consisting of the residential campus of a major medical college, and hundreds of government offices.

(Except for the medical college bit,  replace "medical" by  "engineering" , and  this description might also apply to where I stay today).

When we then celebrated  Republic Day,  3 students  from the Girl Guides troupe were selected, and  they practiced  quietly, greatly and well, for the flag hoisting function, as per the guidance and commands of their strict PE teacher.  The usual march past by the others,  commands , salutes,  and speeches were there, but I do not remember endless loud rehearsals and stuff, announcers going berserk on the PA system, or any of  the neighbors complaining.  And mind you,  all we did was give commands to the marchers, and sing the National Anthem.

Today, living as I do between two large school grounds , used for everything but sports , the  last 10 days, have been a cacophony, of teachers shouting at children, various very loud songs being played  so the children could practice dances, someone  trying to read the daily newspaper headlines in the morning assembly in a shouting manner on the PA system.   As if this was not sufficient, hundreds of kids from both the schools, were made to march on the roads, as they shouted  "left, left, left-right-left-right-left-right-left" at the top of their voices,  for reasons that confuse me  (the shouting, not the marching). Of course in all this, there was a single tone marching band continuously practicing loudly in the background.

There is also huge construction going on on the remaining two sides of my building,  now offering the additional facility of an echo. And so much of my time is spent listening to  concrete mixer trucks, that keep coming throughout the day, and keep going into reverse gear accompanied by some really unimaginative loud endless beeping sounds. That is, when I am not listening to sounds of metals being cut with some shivering sounds, and assorted banging on things.  Not to mention noises of the mosquito fogging machine being used  frequently, given the sudden influx of water, construction people, materials, and inadequate sanitation  

All this was preceded by what is called a TechFest, an activity of much older college level students, where people gather around to see robots and remote control-built cars fighting;  I have no problems with this, except when some kind of compere , continues to shout into the microphone ignoring its amplifying properties,  for a full day;  so much so, that even if I close my doors and windows, I still know who is winning.  And I live way high up, not even anywhere close to the ground.

All this noise creation happens very close to the academic area where classes are held, and people work.  

We presumably wait for someone to make a rule, as common sense is probably  considered invalid. 

We had annual days in our time, we had amazing founder's day calisthenics, flag hoistings on national days.  But it was more folk dances of various regions of India, songs sung by the better singers of our school,  and  no one ever came and complained to the school. While today, dances are performed to the latest hit songs, from films, ignoring their meanings and a weird display of what can politely be called simple harmonic motion of certain body parts, everything  gets played on a PA system, with a compromised amplifier.

I've never understood this. I mean , we had school, we had elections, we had festivals.  We had public celebrations, but it was never as earsplitting as today. 

We live amidst a philosophy of excesses.

Since we cannot show the results of our work , we need to shout from the rooftops that we are working. Publicity is deemed essential, and we have massive announcements happening , not because someone needs to know, but because it feels like we are doing something, finally.  Its like how we have now hit upon the solution of putting up CCTV's everywhere, as a solution to Law and Order problems and crimes.  And never mind that most of them will not work, because someone doesn't have the money to maintain them, or monitor visuals on a regular basis.

So we cannot have an election without some candidate's praises being sung over a loud PA system,  with a road being blocked to construct a podium, which would have probably collapsed by itself in shame had it known the criminal antecedents of the candidate.

When one community calls the faithful to attend prayers using a daily PA system in the early hours, another community responds by broadcasting its prayers at high decibel levels. The authorities  stay mute in the interests of communal harmony.

Cars have radios, which are now played very loud and within closed windows. Fellows who would have trouble getting up and walking to a land line, sit and continuously  speak on cell phones in cars while driving, oblivious to pedestrians and signals.  When there is a traffic jam, they can see there is no place to move, but they still insist on honking away endlessly to register their anger.

Then there are  supermarkets where it is felt that latest hits need to be played to encourage better sales.  These are played so loudly, that you cannot hear what the sales person is saying.  I have once requested them to pipe down  the volume because I couldn't hear, and was  given strange looks. 

There are several suburban train stations, where the announcer faithfully announces every train and/or the changes, but the loudspeakers are messed up and folks on the platform become experts in listening to approximate announcements. Super loud, noise-intensive, longer than usual announcements in 3 languages, means you observe the remaining passengers, and suddenly follow them in a huge rush, across staircases to different platforms where the train is now expected , because that's what the announcement was supposed to be about.Twenty years down the line if we suddenly started doing well in track events and hurdles,  remember, the Railways had something to do with it.

I once got into a rickshaw  where the driver was probably proud of his new music system, set to play only item number disco songs.  Imagine driving in rush hour traffic,  me sitting in the back seat,  unable to hear any ringing of a phone etc,  and we zoom up to a red light with a loud song playing with the woofer on,  the driver sitting with a red handkerchief  tied around his collar , kind of nodding to the beat, pressing the accelerator every now ad then.  At every change of traffic lights, he would accelerate wildly, as if participating in a race, weave in and out of traffic, all the while the music playing, all this, enjoyed amidst smiles, by the helmeted bikers alongside. I had to finally tell the guy that I was not in a race to go somewhere, coming last was fine with me, and while his music system was wonderful, he needed to just cut it off for a while, to allow me to give him the directions to where I wanted to go.  Notice, how the element of "offering a public transport service"  or "a oldish passenger being embarrassed by this filmy mode of travel"  is not important. I could  always get off if I didn't like it.  

I reach home, and press the elevator button.  Its an ancient elevator. Someone has forgotten to close the doors properly on some other upper floor. And there is a continuous beep emanating loudly from the elevator, beseeching folks to close the door, so that the elevator can answer the summons. 

But doors are closed.  No one has heard the loud beep.

Inside homes, TV's are on, blaring the latest cricket test match, and in an amazing temporary display of Darwinian evolution, every one's ears are closed.

I lug my bags, turn around , and proceed up the stairs. Somewhere , as I am catching my breath at the 5th floor,  convinced that I should get my blood lipids tests done, there is a loud roar.

A wicket has fallen somewhere.  The commentators are  shouting themselves hoarse.

I can hear this clearly through all the closed doors.

My wicket is about to fall out of sheer fatigue  as I ring the doorbell.  It rings a bit longer than usual, thanks to my delayed and tired reflexes.

Footsteps.  The door opens. And a voice goes ," Why did you have to ring the bell so loudly ?".....





  1. Your post reminded me of the time I was studying for my Board exams at 4 in the morning. And I would struggle to shut myself in the room, doors and windows locked, trying to ignore the blaring bhajans from the nearby temples :-( It was a pain trying to concentrate, I tell you!

  2. decency or thinking of other peoples comforts are traits we have just not learnt from school days.. !

    people think taking out a marriage procession at 2 in the night through residential areas with music blaring from a Truck full of speakers is their birth right... !!!

    Even if you call the police that my 6 month old cant sleep and these drunkards in the marriage procession are not moving ahead from my house at 2 in the night... the police also tells you to take a chill pill... Shaadi ka season hai saab... !


  3. I can so relate to this post...people dont realise that noise is definitely a BIG pollution as well....and I had a fight with a rick guy about his music which he muttered that I was one of the only people he knew who OBJECTED to the loud noise!

    R's Mom

  4. I agree with all of it. Everything around is suddenly so loud, in all terms!

  5. Recently I shifted my residence that was between two schools but landed again in same situation of two schools & additional masjid on third side ...where ALLAH is awakened on mike 6 AM,11 AM ,5.30 PM sharp and continuously on eid & many festivities!!