It was many years ago that I was in my bed sitting room at Finchley in North London. One evening, around 4.00 pm, the door-bell rang. When I opened the door, I was surprised to see a policeman there. It disoriented me for a second but then he told me that the television in the house was a bit too loud and that it was ‘disturbing the peace of the neighbourhood.’
I told him that I was just a tenant and did not possess a TV set but would pass on the message to the concerned persons. A practice which I noticed was prevalent in the UK was that the motorists there hardly ever sounded their horns whilst driving. Of course they must have done so occasionally for there were signs forbidding horns in a hospital area.
Our culture is different. Our wedding rituals state that the bride should be brought to the house of the groom with the ‘Baja Gaza’and the blaring of the music so that the whole neighbourhood was aware of this fact. Of course there was always ‘Phakaune’ or ‘Bhagaune’, but this was invariably a hush-hush affair of elopement. One notes that wedding cultures vary in our different communities - some take out the bridegroom’s procession late evening and thankfully bring the bride the next morning. Others are not so considerate and wake up the whole neighbourhood with the drums and the flutes and of course the ‘patakas’ whilst going for and bringing along the bride.
But ‘patakas’ are something which the government has tried, with limited success, to ban. I have a vague recollection that even during the Rana days and later at the time of the coronations or SAF games that public displays of fireworks were held at the Tundikhel or at the Dashrath Stadium. Now the tendency is at the opening of the Olympics or at the time of the New Year. Of course the Chinese, surpass all others in the display and it is a good thing that for it seems to be customary to bring in the New Year with fireworks and bangs. Our only problem is that we have five or six New Years every 365 days. I am all for proposing that the state should provide public displays at the various Tundikhels or sports stadiums that are scattered in different parts of Nepal. This will at least provide a ‘feast for the eyes’ when there is load shedding all around. Those who can’t afford the ‘Rockets’ and the ‘Super Duper Bangs’ can at least show their kids some of this extravaganza at no cost at all. As Tihar will soon be upon us, I am advocating this public display at early evening hours.
What really annoys me is that some people who can perhaps afford all this have no consideration for those trying to sleep. They seem to have ‘schadenfreude’ or pleasure at the plight of others when they send off their rockets sharp at midnight. There should be a time limit after which such bangs are totally forbidden.
Now comes another ticklish subject for me. We are a secular state, although I feel that the Nepali culture is very broadminded. As certain communities started morning or evening prayers with modern sound system it was but natural that other communities would counter this. Is it a sign of the times and the influence of our neighbours? Is it simply a case of one-upmanship with one group trying to outdo the other? It is time we became more tolerant of others’ beliefs, feelings and thoughts.
What one must remember, however, is that prior to the development of sound recording and its broadcast, it was usual in the UK to have the town crier who would periodically ring a large bell that he carried around and shout, ‘Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye’. This same system was transferred to Nepal when the ‘Jhyali’ was employed to go around the villages in the hills and dales of Nepal inviting the young boys to come and enlist in the British or the Indian army.
So far I have been writing about the effect of sound on us. What needs noting is that this can develop into noise pollution and cause damage to our hearing systems. The noises made by planes, cars or trucks and machinery in working places can bring this about. A recent news item from Gurgaon, India has reported that 70% of noise pollution there is due to honking of car horns. As I go around Kathmandu I see young boys and girls walking along with an ‘I -Pod’ with an ear piece in the right ear of one and another in the left of the other. What these youngsters do not know or are not aware of is that if they have the sound very loud then their hearing will sooner or later be damaged.The continuous bombardment of sound waves on the eardrums will sooner or later take its toll. The points I have raised are examples of noise pollution in our society. The motorist horn, the fireworks and the rock music are sure to have an effect on the young generation of Nepalis. Will the abuse that they are subjecting their ear-bones to lead to them being stone deaf by the time that they are forty? I for one am on the wrong side of seventy and having trouble with my hearing. I console myself with the words of Shakespeare that I am in my second childhood ‘sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything’.