Tuesday, 20 July 2010


Causing unwanted noise is the worst way to intrude on other people’s privacy. It is like blowing smoke into a non-smoker’s face. And yet, over the last few years, ‘noise’ has become a menace far greater than many others such as indiscriminately thrown garbage, defecation and urination in public places, traffic violations and tarnishing historical monuments with such informed graffiti as ‘Kallu loves Tarunnam.’

Much of the noise is generated during the festival season that is fast approaching. The most ironical thing is that unlike other ‘unlawful activities’ against which the authorities protect you (or pretend to protect), when it comes to noise, the same authorities take a stand that time deadline for causing noise should be extended in order “to respect people’s sentiments”!

Could it be that the gods are in a deep slumber and need to be woken up with such aural bursts of our devotion? No it cannot be. Our scriptures are full of tales whence gods got annoyed with people for noisily disturbing their meditation and even slumber and ‘punished’ the intruders with curses (‘shraap’). In our times, I know for sure, that majority of us who are trying to sleep or study or simply doing our thing, cringe with irritation when the noisy procession passes our way.

Why are we like this? Were we always like this? Shashi Tharoor, writing about Amartya Sen’s book ‘The Argumentative Indian’ in Newsweek of 24 Oct 05, brought out an interesting observation. “Sen”, he wrote, “is particularly critical of the Western overemphasis on India’s religiosity at the expense of any recognition of the country’s equally impressive rationalist, scientific, mathematical and secular heritage. According to Sen, “That scientific spirit of inquiry can also be seen in ancient India.” His book cites 3,500-year-old verses from the Vedas that speculate skeptically about creation, and details India’s contribution to the world of science, rationality and plural discourse – fields generally treated by Orientalists as ‘western spheres of success’.”

I too spoke with an Acharya, a PhD in Vedas, who told me that a great country like ours was not just named after Shakuntla’s son ‘Bharat’ but that Bharat is a combination of two words Bha, that is, ‘Intellect’ and Rat’, that is, ‘Absorbed in’; thereby depicting the people of a nation ‘Absorbed in Intellectualism’. This is certainly far removed from the ‘sentiments of the peoplehogwash given to us by the authorities and trumpeted by the westerns who are fascinated by our lack of intellect and hence, the ability to compete with them. The Acharya told me that when Chinese pilgrims Fa-Hein and Huien-Tsang visited India in the 5th and 7th centuries AD (during the Gupta dynasty), they were impressed by the scholarly pursuits of our people and Brahmins. Indeed, Baidyanath Saraswati has brought out in ‘Swaraj in Education’ how Kashi (now Varanasi or Benaras) grew into a great seat of learning surpassing other civilisational centres of the world including Rome and Mecca.

Thus, even though our scriptures bring out the virtues of ‘scholarly pursuits’, ‘a quiet mind (maun) and ‘meditation’ (samadhi and dhyan), we are becoming increasingly noisier. We, arguably, make more noise than most other people. Other than the religious processions, let us consider a few examples of how we express these ‘sentiments:

  • We express our glee at the traffic lights turning green by collectively honking; those who are farther from the lights honking louder than those who are closer.
  • We announce to the whole world our daughter or son’s marriage by joyously bursting crackers and beating drums; beating drums being an ancient art-form we imported from the jungles of Africa as their only means of communication.
  • During election time we make all our tall promises through loudspeakers since we are convinced that our countrymen, like we ourselves, are hard of hearing.
  • Whilst driving we honk profusely at anyone who dares to cross our way. Indeed, it is rumoured that many of our countrymen consider it an emergency when their vehicle horns break down but don’t mind such ‘small’ defects as brakes and indicating lights not functioning.
  • We never deprive our immediate neighbours and indeed the entire neighbourhood of the healing benefits of our ‘quality music’, whenever we throw a party. If they don’t come to know that ‘it’s the time to disco’, we feel that we haven’t done our public duty.
  • Whilst watching our favourite TV programme we notice that the volume automatically goes up when the ads appear so that we don’t miss out on the essential reasons for televising a programme.
  • In public debates we win most arguments by lung power. Indeed, ‘the bigger the better’ is not merely a male fantasy with us. Creator of bigger noise, male or female, is automatically considered more powerful.

So, in the coming festive season, let us express our joyous sentiments more silently, rather than making these into a ‘tamasha’. Let us awaken God within us rather than without through conches, cymbals, drums, crackers and loudspeakers. Let’s us not automatically include others in our revelry but respect their privacy as much as we want others to respect ours. Let’s not give a new meaning to the expression, “Lend me your ears”!

1 comment:

  1. Totally agree with you on this.Do you know the state I live in, the autos do not have silencers and make such a noise that one could go deaf after an outing.Wonder if there should be laws or citizens have to impose upon the authorities to take steps toward a quieter India.


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