Javed Akhtar, a script writer, a poet and a lyricist, an ex-MP and an intellectual has recently made a statement against the rising levels of decibels from places of worship. I, too fully agree and support him.
I have my own reasons. The urban centres are already very noisy and there does not seem to be any effort to control the excessive noise. I am an 80+ individual who has to suffer it right through the day and night and frequently the suffering is right through the week.
Living on the Ridge Road of the Idgah Hills at Bhopal nights and days are very seldom quiet. That the stray dog population has exponentially risen does not need any re-iteration. In our area they seem to be cooling off during the day and are out as soon as the sun goes down. Nights are for their dog-fights, snarling and barking away at intruders – human, bovine or canine. Some nights it goes on, seemingly, till eternity.
When peace and quiet appears to be imminent, out comes the aazhan popping out from loudspeakers from several mosques one at a time. Every mosque has its own time for aazhan and may differ from others by sheer minutes. There are many mosques in the vicinity and in the quiet of the dying night the loud speakers come loud and clear even from far-away mosques as they commence broadcasting one after the other.
Now that it is winter that is slowly retreating, it is still dark after the session of aazhans. But just when you start getting the much-denied sleep it is the aircraft flying low that shatter the chances of peace and tranquility for some rest and repose. They seemingly line up in the sky and start descending one by one just after day-break. Living right on their flight path we get the worst of the noise generated by their jet or turbo-prop engines. The post-dawn sleep too is also thus trashed.
These are the specific sources of noise that permeate during the most inconvenient hours. But there is a general low-density noise all through the day. Automobile horns, scooters being kicked for a start or a heavy motorcycles booming away or sundry noises like a mason using electric saws to cut marble slabs or a carpenter hammering away on nails in a flat in the block are noises that are ever present.
As the workers call it a day it is time for planes to home in again using the air space above us for their landing run in the evenings. And, then at least thrice in the evening loudspeakers blare out aazhan again calling the faithful for namaaz – the noise drowning even the the TV serial dialogues. And as we prepare to get some sleep the celebratory crackers start going off in this wedding season.
It is indeed a noisy world. According to the Hindu system of “varnashram”, at my age I should have been in the forests living out an austere life waiting for the curtains to come down on me. But, no, there are no forests around to go to as those have been felled for that dreadful word “vikas”. And whatever are now left to us are actually those where the burgeoning wildlife has been forced to migrate to from the so-called parks where they were boxed in. Those are no longer the forests where an oldie could try and spend peacefully his remaining few days. They are infested by predators which have spilt over from the game parks looking for fresh pastures and frequently make meals of a bovine or a hapless human. I any case, using a forest for a residence would be an anachronistic in this day and age.
Apparently, in today’s India the elderly have no alternative. They have to suffer the urban noises day and night unless the administration becomes gracious and empathises with them to stamp out, at least, the noises that can be stamped out. While the noise from aircraft cannot possibly be helped, no government in India has the guts to put a curb on the noises emanating from religious places. Besides, Maneka Gandhi being around, we have to co-exist with snarling, barking and quarrelling street dogs.
Ultimately, one has to reconcile with the fact that deliverance from this kind of torture will have to wait till our own day of deliverance and not before that.