Thursday, August 21, 2008

Sources of Noise and Cognitive Pollution

Some notable pollutants (some of them lesser-known) in urban areas:
  1. Car security alarms. They are really loud. In India, honking on roads or reverse-gear alarms in residential areas take the cake as well.

  2. Cell phone ring tones: both the incoming call ring tones (some are really bizarre), and the "hello tunes". The "hello tune" is a song or music piece or the voice of your child which you hear when you call someone, instead of the usual canonical ring-ring, ring-ring.

  3. Music in malls, public spaces, LCD screens in restaurants and public transport terminals.

  4. Billboards by the side of the road, hoardings, small-sized billboards on every street light, small posters in trains, buses, backs of buses, sides of buses, taxis, etc.

  5. Advertising in newspapers, magazines, pay channels on TV, and so on.

  6. People talking loudly on their cellphones in public spaces.

  7. Heavy bass music being showed off by car owners cruising on a busy street.

  8. Loud motorcycles (some with modified exhausts), and in India: auto-rickshaws.

  9. Loudspeakers at places of worship, during religious ceremonies at home and at wedding celebrations. They are illegal in big cities, but not in small-town India, where protesting against them is considered anti-social.

  10. Advertisements which take your time and which you cannot avoid, e.g. at the beginning of a film in a theater, trailers at the beginning of a DVD, the front page of a newspaper having a full-page ad, etc.
How many of these do you protest against? Or is moving to a rural or sparsely-populated setting the only alternative which can promise a respite to this aural and cognitive overload?


girish said...

I visited India and home (Chennai) for the first time in 10 years recently and was struck by this pervasive 'overload'.

"Loudspeakers at places of worship, during religious ceremonies at home and at wedding celebrations. They are illegal in big cities..."

Didn't realize these were illegal. My parents live in densely populated Adyar in Chennai and there's a small temple by their doorstep which blasts bhajans from the crack of dawn till nightfall, something that appeared to be common in Chennai.

harmanjit said...

Hi Girish,

Loudspeakers, unless under special exception, are illegal at night after 10.30 in big cities. You can call the police if you want to protest, and many do.

People in Chandigarh and Amritsar have successfully protested against gurudwaras and temples blaring their "bhajans" through day and night.

Of course, protesting against a religious establishment in India takes guts, because you can be easily labeled as an apostate, an anti-national, and whatnot. And the irony is, most residents will side with the religious establishment, even though in their hearts they want peace and quiet for their children "to study for the exams".