It is a little past 10 pm on the first day of Ganesh Chaturti as I start to write this post. I’ve just put the baby back to sleep again. He’s been trying to sleep since 5 pm. The signs were all there – a tired little face, rubbing his eyes, hyper-excitability, laughing as if he couldn’t stop. The baby books will tell you that by this point, he’s gone beyond sleep. As a friend put it, “He’s too tired to sleep”.
Being a public holiday didn’t help. Living in a lovely house with an envious view may be a blessing, but the location is a curse. It’s not just the traffic flowing by on the main and arterial roads or the motorcycles zooming by or the reversing cars with their ‘Silent Night’ alarms at 3 am. It is the incessant honking. It is the pile-up of vehicles at the petrol pump next door. It is the impatient buses with their super-loud horns wanting to get past the petrol pump.
Tonight, it is all of this. And it is also the vehicles heading to the ferry for the first night of immersions. Fireworks, car honking in tandem (reminds me of Iraq or Afghanistan – just the celebratory guns are missing ), loudspeakers attached to trucks laden with idols.
Poor God – between now and New Year, His hearing will be sorely tested once again. No wonder our prayers aren’t heard anymore.
I have lived in Bombay for most of my life. Yet the noise here, in little Panjim, is nothing like I have ever experienced. I remember endless conversations with Mr.R when I tried to convince him that it was easy to tune out the sound – it fades into the background, I said.
A year later, I see how stupid I was. Contrary to popular wisdom, you don’t get used to it. Rather, it grates on your nerves every waking moment.
Elevated noise creates stress. With the baby, my threshold for tolerating unnecessary noise has dropped dramatically. Most days, I feel rather militant toward the buses, trucks, cars and bikes that honk as they turn, honk as they pass by, honk as they stop. It is never ending. Sooner or later, something has to give.
We’re contemplating putting up a banner in the verandah which reads “Silence Zone. Baby sleeping”. I don’t think it will make any difference. If we had people with any sense , I think uncharitably, we wouldn’t be in this situation in the first place. More importantly, I suspect we have enough malicious, out-for-a-lark people around who will honk precisely because you ask them not to.
So, short of moving out, what are our options? Do they make earplugs for babies? Perhaps we can try those earmuffs that kids in England wear in the winter or during Halloween – furry, colourful, often with devil’s horns or an angel’s halo attached.
The other option? A public campaign to reduce noise, endless letters to the editor, glaring at drivers, petitioning to shut down the petrol pump.
How does one cope? Any tips?
Update on last night: We got no sleep. Baby kept jumping out of his skin everytime a firecracker went off either nearby or in the distance. He looked petrified – no child should be subjected to this. Not for any reason, not even God.