The myriad sounds of India : The Tribune India

The myriad sounds of India

The myriad  sounds of India

Shankar Gopalkrishnan

IT is a short stay — just a couple of weeks — in the US and then I will be back in India. As I type away, there is pin-drop silence. Just the occasional creak of the wooden floor as I change my posture on the chair. From time to time, there is the swish of car tyres on the road. That apart, silence reigns. As they say, the silence is deafening!

Contrast this with a typical Indian morning. By now, the doorbell would have rung umpteen times. The newspaper man announces his arrival. You open the door to pick up the newspaper. Your neighbour is doing the same. You have an animated discussion — the election results, the twists and turns in the cricket match last evening, etc.

You sit down to read the newspaper. The doorbell rings. The milkman has dropped the packets of milk and curd. It is the start of the month and he needs to be paid. You sip your tea. There is a knock on the door. This time, it is the person who washes the car. You hand over the keys to him. In 15 minutes, he will be back once more to deposit the keys.

You are now having breakfast. The bell rings again. It is the housemaid. You hear the clatter of vessels. Soon, she heads to your room and switches off the fan. It’s a cue for you to move to another room. She sweeps and mops the floor and leaves the fan at full blast for the floor to dry.

There is another knock on the door. Your neighbour has prepared poha for breakfast and hands over a bowlful for you to taste. You engage in more conversation — this time about her ageing mother-in-law’s health. Before long, there is an unscheduled ring of the doorbell. A good Samaritan is collecting old newspapers and asks if you would like to make a contribution.

In the opposite building, someone has just switched on loud music; it’s as if Naatu-Naatu is playing in your own home. The rhythm compels you to do a little jig. The street vendor has now arrived with juicy mangoes. Soon, the Metro construction workers start their day. Their noise takes over; there is a lot of hammering and welding. Suddenly, a car alarm goes off in the basement parking. The car shrieks and howls, till the owner comes down and turns off the alarm.

Kids are playing cricket in the building compound. You hear the bat striking the ball and the high-pitched arguments — an inevitable part of the game. It is a medley of sounds that envelops you from all directions.

I have typed off the entire piece sitting in a tiny room in Berkeley, California. There has not been one sound to break the monotony; just the whirr of the heater and the occasional swish of the car tyres outside.

India, I miss you — the sounds, the noise, the commotion and, above all, the overflowing liveliness, so much a part of each day!

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