Can we have some silence, please?

Undigitize Aug 21, 2016

Sometime ago, I read an opinion blog on The Hindu's (newspaper publication - in case you are not aware) website by Sundar Sarukkai - Can we have some silence, please? The article mainly focused on the noise (not to be confused with sound) that surrounds us in our everyday lives. As an Indian, it is even more evident in our country since we are a population of over 1.25 billion and growing that we will have certain sounds that are not favorable but yet we must bear with in our everyday lives.

The everyday noises

If you stay in a city in India and not necessarily in a gated society or somewhere on the outskirts of the city, you would have heard the common morning pandemonium consisting of the garbage collector (kabadi-wala, as we call him), vegetable hawkers, the milk distributor, water-motor sounds, school bus honking, auto rickshaws, loudspeaker noise from places of worship making their usual banter and other varied commotion.

Within your home, you may have a news channel, music channel or a religious channel playing on your TV with volume loud enough to make you go deaf if you keep listening at same volume for a few hours. As the day progress further, you are introduced to other noises from outside your home - cars honking, ladies chattering, sometimes sound of construction work and so on. Evenings are anyhow reserved for the loudest music, cars stuck in traffic blaring their loud horns, city buses and auto-rickshaws dropping their morning travelers back home and places of worships declaring their supremacy over natural peace in the form of loud verse-reciting and music all over again.

These decibel levels go on a roll during festive and marriage seasons when loud DJs add to the pollution with their regular tunes. These are some of the very common sounds that we usually encounter. I am quite sure that you will have a ton of items to add to the list of unwanted sounds that disrupt the natural peace.

Cultural issue

Our culture promotes being loud because in order to get attention of people in such a huge population, you ought to have an advantage over others in some sense. For example, in more developed countries, it is considered rude to honk at fellow drivers whereas in India, it is a customary to honk before you pass by someone as a way to acknowledge your presence. This practice has become so prominent that if you walk on a road in a city and record a video, you will hear these loud horns more than the person itself.

Stop Honking

To corroborate my claim, according to a 2014 survey, Citiquiet lists Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata among the top five noisiest cities in the world. Majority of Delhi city did not clear Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)’s standards of noise control of 55 leq dBA (linear equivalent of Decibel A) since the average noise level on road is about 73 leq dBA. DailyMail's article on this issue in Delhi also highlights various effects of extremely concerning levels of noise in Delhi. Unfortunately, we also promote a culture of using earplugs or headphones to avoid the general public which has also been the cause of many deaths throughout the world.

Am I a victim?

To identify whether you are also a victim of noise pollution, I suggest the following experiment for you. Tinnitus - one of the adverse effects of noise pollution is a loud ringing or buzzing in your ears. Ideally, a person will have this to a certain extent. However, a person with very obvious issues will hear this sound more prominently. Go to a quiet room and turn off all the appliances nearby (including fan and air conditioner) and calmly try to listen. If you hear a buzzing or ringing, you may be a victim of noise pollution. You may alternatively use free tools over Google or visit a E-N-T specialist to identify the same.

Let's pledge

However, still my biggest concern is the culture of honking at passersby. It is something that is very much under our control and a culture most of us can change by being a little conscious of our actions. Let go of that 3 seconds' instinct of honking at that person driving recklessly or slowly; after all, it does not really help much. I have pledged to not honk at people and have been following this for the past 1 month now. This will be my little effort at bringing about the change in the country that we all crib about over social media. Will you join me in bringing this change? Quoting Hellen Keller -

Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.