Slice of life: A noisy affair

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Whether it is playing loud music or partying or honking or even talking loudly, why is it that we lack the civic sense to respect the rights of others?

This morning, there was a wall being broken down in the house downstairs. The drilling noise was deafening. It felt as though an army had got into our heads and were pounding from the inside incessantly. The decibel levels were so loud that we could not even hear each other speak. This went for about six hours. There was no respite, no apologies, no explanation. My husband took to the social media and wrote “From morning there is some drilling going on in the flat below. They are breaking a wall. It’s like someone is drilling two feet away. The noise is deafening and is getting in to your head. Driving you crazy. Apparently will go on for a few more hours. We are such a tolerant society. No one is complaining about the noise or trouble. In fact that’s the case in most areas of life. If roads are bad, we tolerate it. If taxes are high, we tolerate it. If lakes are polluted, we tolerate it. If water is not available tolerate it. I could go on forever. But you get the message. Maybe it is time we become a bit intolerant, don’t you think?”

Many years ago, when I was expecting my second child, I faced an unusual problem, along with the discomforts of my pregnancy. Around 2 am each night, after I went to sleep I would be woken up by the most unusual scary music, which was like a soundtrack from a horror movie. It was a cross between a cry of agony and a sad song. There was no variation in the music or the time that it was played. It was piercingly loud and I would sit up bolt upright, in fright. It would go on for about an hour or two, and then would subside. By then, my sleep as well as my peace of mind had disappeared.

After a few nights of trying to ignore this, I went outside my balcony to investigate and finally managed to track down the source of this noise. It was from a third floor apartment in a residential building, across the road. I waited till it was dawn and then decided to pay the offenders a visit, ignoring the protests of my husband. I was a woman on a mission. The exteriors of building were still being constructed and there was no elevators installed yet. I marched up the stairs, heaving and panting and made it up to the apartment. Then I rang their doorbell repeatedly and it was opened by a bleary eyed young man who was sharing the flat with two of his friends. I think they must have got a shock to see a very pregnant lady ringing their doorbell that early in the morning. They invited me inside, and offered me water, which I gladly accepted. Then I explained to them the reason of my visit. They apologised profusely and said they did not realise what inconvenience it must have been causing others. They never thought the sound would carry across the road. The music stopped after that. The problem was solved.

It was a simple matter of requesting them, and them being considerate enough to comply with it.

Years later, I would be woken up by loud-speakers blaring the latest bhajans composed to popular the tunes of Hindi film songs, during Ganesh Chaturthi. There was no one I could approach and nobody I could request, as it was “only for 10 days”.

The recent Sonu Nigam Azaan controversy where the singer clarified that he was against loud noise of any kind, that it was a social issue not a religious issue, saw an outrage on social media and fatwas being issued, in response to which he shaved off his head. By the time, this goes to press, the controversy would have probably died down and the media would have latched on to the next big-news.

Being considerate of others is something that should come naturally. Whether it is playing loud music (be it for religious reasons or recreation), or partying or honking or even talking loudly, why is it that we lack the civic sense to respect the rights of others? How did we degenerate into this society that seems to think “might/mine is right”?

Or is it that we do it because we know we can get away with it and nobody politely requests anymore?

(Preeti Shenoy is the author of eight bestselling books,the latest being a fiction titled It’s All In The Planets)

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