Sounds of India

The sounds of India

Some of my most powerful memories of India will be the noises and sounds. Most experiences and sensations in India are dialled up by x 10 compared to life in Europe, and sound is no different.

The constant background sounds include the parakeets screeching and squabbling in the tree outside, the small squirrels making a sharp whirring and clicking noise when alarmed, “the noisiest birds in the world” as I call them, a gang of small doves with long tails making a hullabaloo that is absolutely staggering. Luckily they don’t stay long. The mynah birds call and whoop, and so does a bird I can’t identify whose song goes up the scale finishing with a long booming whoop at the top. The bats just make a rustling noise as they move in the trees, like a theatrical effect.

During the night the most persistent sound around here is of dogs barking. They sleep all day so at night they are on high alert. The one under my building has a ritual – he stands on the wall overlooking the waste ground (field is a bit flattering) and starts to howl into the night. I think he just likes the fact that if he does it long enough, other dogs join in around the neighbourhood and they love to get the barking echoing around.  It can be really frustrating if you are trying to get to sleep, but I’ve largely incorporated it into the file “acceptable noises” while trying to drop off.  What is worse is the people who start phoning others around midnight, hanging out their window and shouting loudly into their mobiles. Mercifully the blare of car horns on the main road is quite far from my building but all cars in India play a tune as they reverse, so it is very common to hear “Jingle Bells” at 3 in the morning as someone parks their car.

The morning sounds start around 5 with someone hitting a tin object loudly 10 times exactly. I don’t know where they are or why they do it, but I think it is some sort of alarm clock for a group of workers. Then the call to prayer from a local mosque starts at 6, echoing through the neighbourhood. It is followed around 7 by the recycling guy with his cart, he shouts out a word that end with a YA sound as he tries to recover bottles and newspaper that he can sell. It sounds like “nareem-YA”. Then the scooters and rickshaws start up, and the building site next door starts to come alive with the banging of hammers and cement mixer chugging and whining. The families who live on the site who are buildng the building start to make breakfast, the kids start yelling and the women yell back.

When it gets light at 8, the first cricket match starts in the “field”. This is sometimes a group of 6 -8 boys but at weekends, it is a big group of young men, say 20 of them and the noise is incredible. Each klonk as the ball is hit, each run is cheered and clapped. Cricket starts up again at 4 pm weekdays, but goes on all day at weekends. Later on in the day, some teenagers  in this building converse loudly with friends in the opposite building across the divide. “Sakshi! SAKSHI!” “Yah?” followed by a long dialogue about school usually.

So which ones will I miss? The birds and the squirrels – even the parakeets, although they make such a racket.  Which ones will I not miss? Most of the others – the cricket being number 1! But it all adds up to India – the sounds are part of the constant move flow and energy of the place. No wonder India invented yoga and meditation – to get some peace and quiet!



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