Travels in India — 12
Well, it had to happen. I’ve been constantly whinging about it, so let’s address it and get it out of the way.
Indians, I have discovered, enjoy by necessity, a high tolerance for noise. I suppose it goes well with their high tolerance for lack of privacy (and in a way, noise steals your privacy as well). They don’t have a lot of choice on either front and it’s what they’ve grown up with and gotten used to (yet another way our Western life is anaesthetised). I’m guessing that an Indian left alone in silence without company for long periods might become rather hysterical (no wonder those swamis are searching for that inner silence).
Conversations are conducted vociferously as if into ear trumpets, horns are leaned on, mobile phones shriek their crazy ringtones, generators and vehicle motors chug and grind away and televisions and boom boxes are on at full blast — even when the person using it is in the same room. They do like to share. Possibly there is some cause and effect going on here — maybe some of it is due to impaired hearing, like our ageing parents who seem to have the television louder and louder as the years progress.
Indians are in love with their movies and movie stars (not to mention their cricket stars), and there’s often a tellie going in the background of a restaurant. Very entertaining, even if you don’t speak the language; perhaps even more so. And music, well, you only have to watch a film to see that they will burst into song and dance moves on mass at the drop of a turban. I do take exception to the intrusion of some western music though. I have already made my feelings on Titanic clear elsewhere and I’m still paying for the therapy I needed after the last trip…but this trip’s demon looks like being Justin Bieber. The boys love him! The Cyber Zone lads had Baiii-bee, baiii-bee, baiii-beee-ohh on a tape loop, I’m sure. And then there’s the hypnotic and totally ubiquitous Kolavari, but I’ve kinda gotten to like that one. They really know how to play something to death when they like it. Just shows you if you could have just one hit song in India (and collect the royalties — there’s the rub) you’d be a very wealthy person.
But I am suffering major sleep deprivation. Since my back injury I am sadly a much lighter sleep than I ever used to be, and it doesn’t take much to wake me up at home, so being in some of these noise-nests is a version of hell, in that respect. Silicon ear plugs have been my friends for a long time now, but I fear that my hearing is making some kind of evolutionary adjustment as they are simply not equipped to block out all the noises being funnelled at them. Last night for example, I eventually gave in when the combination of lift-outside-door and yakking-people-waiting-for-lift-outside-door were augmented by LOUD HINDI SOAP in the next room. I wasn’t too worried as I knew these noises would all grind down soon. However. To be woken up at 4.30am by LOUD HINDI MUSIC on a LOUD SPEAKER drilled a nice burnt hole through my head. It continued for about half an hour — the only blessing was that it wasn’t Justin Bieber — then church bells were followed by what seemed to be some kind of sermon. I vaguely recalled in my private painful haze that it was Sunday. I tell you, religion is not a private thing either, in this country. Who needs door-to-door proselytising when you can use a public megaphone?
India is like a chain smoker with noise. One aural abomination is lit off the butt of the last one. Just when the noise of the family confab stops, the screaming children start up. When that’s over the TV goes on. When that goes off there’s an altercation between a bus and a tuk tuk out the front with horns blaring in all directions. Then the power goes off and the generator kicks in. All nicely accompanied by the constant whirr and hum of fans and air conditioning.
And just when I thought it was safe to hang up my mosquito net (you never hear the bloody things coming as there’s too much other racket!) and make my bed up, I unfurled the green and white canvas-textured sheet I’d been given. Ye gods. Narrow green and white stripes. I watched in horror as the wretched thing virtually writhed on the bed — don’t look you’ll go blind! Together with my lime green walls closing in on me (was it my imagination or were they growing slowly louder?), the only things left to acquire was the padding and a nice little jacket. Watch this space.