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The Consequence Of Sound

There are fewer and fewer places in the city where you can experience the sound of silence. People are moving out of commercial areas to experience serenity, only to populate quieter areas with more noise.

Drivers honking, engines revving, cement churning, machines drilling, workers hammering.  With every passing day, Bangalore sounds more like a city set in a dystopian film from the 1900s. As everywhere you turn a new road, building or structure being constructed, the mass of bleak grey is much like a black and white oldie. 

What is noise? In simple terms, noise is any sound that is unwanted. 

During a particular phase of construction near my house, my mum would always tell me to ‘tune out’ the sound when it bothered me. The problem with this is that we get so used to it, we don’t realise the ways that it’s actually affecting each of us every day.

It’s like breathing in smoke that accumulates inside of your lungs until your dying breath on a hospital bed. If you choose to, you can tune it out, or you can look at that cigarette in your hand and decide to make a change for the better. 

Sounds dramatic, but just like other forms of pollution, noise affects us and the environment around us in a number of ways. Be it an increase in stress levels, a loss in hearing, an aggravation of depression, anxiety and other mental health concerns, an accelerated number of heart attacks and insomniacs, and the list goes on.

So how can you, in a city such as ours, create less noise and improve the overall well-being of yourself and your neighbourhood?

1. Honking is for indication. It’s not a method to let out your frustration against your wife because of the fight you had the night before, neither to show your pride in being the better driver, nor to display the fancy car that you just bought with that new promotion. Lastly, it isn’t a way for you to express your rage to the person who just overtook you. Forgive, even when driving. The horn is not for you to have fun with, but to use wisely to prevent accidents and not cause them.

2. If you have an old vehicle, go check it, get it serviced, get your papers in order so that they align with the law. Did you know that there are noise limits for every vehicle depending on the capacity of their engine? In 2019, when pollution is a roaring crisis, it’s hardly a time to want an engine that is defined as cool by how loud it is.

3. Better still, walk! Tune in to Rihanna’s latest hits if you please and just walk walk walk walk walk. Did I get that right? Only, lift your feet off the ground instead of dragging them. Even so, it causes a lot less noise than a loud engine and greatly reduces the effects of air pollution too. Two birds, one stone!

4. Another option is to cycle. I’m probably the last person to actually do this, which is why I offered walking as the first solution. However, if you have excuses like I do about how scary the roads are and how much traffic there is. Just remember that every one of us that takes a step (or rather starts to pedal) only decreases the traffic and increases the possibility of the government actually wanting to consider safety laws for cyclists. Where there is demand, there is supply.  Like Gandhi said, “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”

5. Since we’re quoting quotes, Booker T Washington, an educator, author and orator said,  “Success in life is founded upon attention to small things rather than to the large things, to the everyday things nearer to us than to the things that are remote and uncommon.” That being said, put your phone on silent mode or better still, switch it off. The noise from constant notifications, spam calls, impending text messages and unnecessary forwards is much louder and a bigger stressor than we make it to be in our tech-driven society.

6. Why is it that when a bird builds a nest, a beaver builds a dam or a rabbit digs a burrow, they’re silent as a lamb, but when humans build a house, there’s clanging, clashing, whirring, crashing, pounding, knocking and banging?

Forget the effects on the neighbourhood, think of the construction workers themselves and the tumultuous experiences they must have day after day! Engineers, architects, contractors, property consultants, builders, businessmen in construction, need to ask themselves and each other these questions.

  • Is there a way to use only the materials needed? Rather than leaving piles of cement and sacks of sand by the side of the road for weeks after the project is complete? The less you use, the fewer the vehicles required to transport it, the fewer the machinery to stir it and sift it, the less brawl to bother us all. Corruption causes more than just monetary problems.

  • Is there a way to make this machine work in a quieter manner? Troubleshoot. Think outside the box. Maybe the introduction of damping to reduce vibration of machinery or is it possible to replace whatever is causing the noise in the machinery with something quieter?

  • And sometimes, think inside the box. Perhaps by creating enclosures around machines so that the volumes released into the environment are lowered.

  • Are all the machines well-maintained? Taking care of equipment often and accurately is important for many reasons. One of which is that machinery tends to become noisier as it gets older. You’ll definitely be able to tell when it’s time to replace the unsound parts.

7. A couple of months ago, as I sat in the backseat of a taxi, I plugged in my earphones in an attempt to (literally) ‘tune out’ the unruly traffic and the blaring music, my head began to throb. I sincerely requested my cab driver to turn down the volume. “Yes madam!” he spouted, only to turn it back up a few seconds later. The sequence of events repeated themselves three times before I stepped out of the cab and into the huge garden of an apartment complex where I stood for a few minutes just breathing slowly and enjoying the cooing of the birds and the subtle rustle of leaves as the breeze blew slowly.Anywhere that there is space near you, plant trees. Allow creatures to nest. The soothing sounds reverse the effect of the clamorous city.

Have you ever wondered why a lot relaxation techniques involve sounds of chirping birds, rushing water and pouring rain to help us feel calm?

8. Stemming from my last anecdote, I remember when I was a child and my sisters’ and I would listen to heavy metal, my mom would come into the room and say, “Chi, what is this noise?” and we would all be offended. Thank goodness we’ve moved on from those days and now prefer a jazz quartet to a growling lead vocalist. However, I’ve realised, not everyone enjoys the same taste in music and we need to be considerate of that.

9. Finally, the next time you see something out of order, you’re not allowed to say, “It’s the government’s fault, they’re not doing anything about it. India will never change.” There are a number of laws in place that you’re probably not following. It could be something that isn’t even related to noise, but as simple as ‘Do Not Litter’. Yet, you roll down the window of your air conditioned car and toss out the packet of chips you just ate. You’re a part of the ‘apathetic people who don’t do anything about it’ that we all complain about. On the contrary, if you’re a stickler for rules and you’re unhappy with their laws, that’s the ONE time you should be loud. Make your voice heard, because every word you say can make a change.  “Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together”. Thank you, George Eliot.

If you’re always asking yourself how you can make a difference in the world, here’s your answer.

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