Tuesday, May 6, 2014


This post may seem facetious to many. But, I am being deadly serious. Underneath all the bluster and attempt at humour is/are some questions. This post, like many others is deeply prejudiced and replete with wild sweeping generalisations, all of which can squarely be blamed on me.

As always, a few principles.

·        NGO/Activist/Pink/Commie/Socialist/Environmentalist – are all broadly one and the same - `Jholawallas’. Almost all lead highly privileged lives. In other words they do not have to work like the rest of us. Somebody else has either set them up securely, or, someone else brings the food to the table. The person in question can then pursue intellectual activities like noise pollution, saving tribals, installing toilets, protesting against most forms of development and so on and so forth.

·         All corporates are to be despised. They have ruined our environment, they give us cancer, make us fat, unhealthy, they are corrupt, they are unspeakably rich, and, to make matters worse their employees are getting paid unspeakably large amounts of money. Hence for all these and many other reasons, anything that a corporate does is wrong.

·         Any poor person is always right. He is to be indulged and often helped. In a worst case scenario his job should be protected, not improved as he is still upholding a dying skill and if he is not protected the skill will forever be lost and/or we will lose some part of our culture.

Now having got that down, let me plunge further.

I live in a rather privileged area of Mumbai, not the most privileged, but fairly high up in the privileged list. This area is also regarded by many as being relatively quiet as it is off the main road. The internal roads are narrow and unimportant. Let me assure you that nothing could be further from the truth. The area is as noisy as a blacksmiths foundry.

One of the prime reasons why I have not written for so long is not because I have been busy with mundane work but, because of research for this post!

The level of noise from the streets is enough to drive you mad. This is not traffic noise but simply noise made by street vendors. For a week every time I heard a noise, i.e. a passing vendor crying out, I rushed to the window to identify what he was offering. After deep research this is what is audible on my street:

1.     Every Sunday morning 6.30 am you have a `Bansuriwalla’ or flautist. He displays his prowess and wares by playing the flute below my window for at least 45 minutes.

2.     Every morning 10 am [including Sundays and Bank holidays], we have a monkey charmer. This involves a man, trained monkeys and a `Damru’ or hand drum to attract attention. This is a good 30 minutes of total cacophony. No phone calls are possible as people on the other end of the line assume you are on the street watching a monkey show! Frankly they are not incorrect.

3.     During the months February to end May the continual, manic calling of a `Koyal’. Wikipedia informs me that a Koyal or Koel is a type of Cuckoo. What an appropriate name. Drives me totally Cuckoo. Yes, yes I know all about the romance and significance around the sound the Koel makes, but believe me, for four months solid early morning to the evening is enough to slit your wrists or better still want to wring the damn Koel’s neck. All phone calls involve a polite enquiry from the other end - `Is that a Koel?’. Yes! fucking right it is!!

4.     8 am and 10 am man with handcart screaming his lungs out asking for your junk. Literally, junk. These characters are known as `Jari Puranawallas’ or `Bhangarwallas’.

5.     9 am is the time for the Fig seller. Would you believe it? Fig seller!! Yes folks that this the time the `Anjeer’ is sold by a man carrying a box on his head yelling `Anjeer’.

6.     Without any schedule, during summer you have mango merchants, yelling `Aapus’ indicating that the Alphonso mango or an excellent facsimile of it is available for you to buy.

7.     About 11 am is the knife seller and sharpener or the `Dharwalla’. He is a two in one sharpen and sell. Naturally his voice has to reach the right inside my flat for me to realise he is waiting to sharpen my knife.

8.     12 noon is the time for the vegetable vendor or `Bhajiwalla’ and his cart of vegetable. This guy yells a lot. He has a lot to sell, tomato, onion, potato whatnot and each one has to be shouted out loud.

9.     Sometime between 2pm and 3 pm is a plant seller or `Jhadwalla’. This man has a variety of seasonal flower plants on sale. More discordant shouting.

10.  The `Jhadoowalla’ or broom seller is unpredictable. He has no set time.   

I kid you not. That is a line up of the noise makers. Every day. I find this irritating in the extreme. The level of noise that each makes especially the monkey charmer and the Flautist would easily exceed the 55db that is mandated for Mumbai. Just to let you know that 55db is the sound of a normal conversation. Yelling `Anjeer’ at the top of your voice is not normal conversation. Mind you that these noises are apart from the usual traffic, the persistent whine of stone cutting machines and general cacophony.

Clearly, all this noise generated is beyond permissible limits. The Koel I can understand is helpless, but the rest? Question is would an Environmentalist have any of these noise makers punished in accordance with the law? Are the noise makers poor? Should they be protected? Would things be different if a vendor was selling something made by a corporate, a filthy MNC, in exactly the same way? Would it be different if the Basuriwalla was selling Casio keyboards making as much noise be tolerated?

Where are the Jholawallas when you need them?     

No comments:

Post a Comment