Saturday, October 17, 2009

Speak softly and carry loud speakers

Indians love noise. They are a very sensual people - very aware of the senses. Food is spicy, colors are bright, and music is played very, very loudly. Which is ironic since most Indians I've met speak quite softly. Too softly.

For example, most cars here have backup music. When they are put into reverse, a lively, electronic tune starts playing. This is no beep, beep of the construction vehicles of yore, the music ranges anywhere from classical symphonies to the latest Bollywood soundtrack.

Everyone has a cell phone. And no cell phone is ever put on silent. Sacrament meeting is usually no exception despite the repeated entreaties from the pulpit to turn them off. One time Tiffany and I swore we heard one ringing with I'm Bringing Home a Baby Bumblebee. The phone belonged to a stately older gentleman. Giggles ensued.

Our Godavari River trip further highlighted this when two huge speakers were lifted out of the boat's windows and on to the roof as we pulled away from shore. Telugu music blared out of them from for the next 12 hours. Around mid-day when everyone was taking a little siesta (Indians are also great nappers), I swear the captain turned the speakers on even louder - perhaps thinking it was getting too quiet onboard. Not one of the recumbent Indians seemed to mind at all. They continued to slumber peacefully. Our cooks regularly fall asleep to Telugu music at night. Loud Telugu music. John has to sneak in and turn it down later if he hopes to get any rest.

Diwali is no exception to this trend. On Saturday we celebrated the Festival of Lights by joining with the local Muslim community that John is studying for dinner, games, and fire crackers. Now, Indian fire crackers are not like American fireworks. Ours look positively wimpy compared to their pyrotechnics. Indians have two different categories: ones valued for their retina-searing lights, others for their ear-shattering noise. By far the local favorite is the bombs. That is what they call them because that is what they are. Minus the fire and shrapnel. For days now it's sounded like London being shelled by the Germans. And I mean days. India's loose conception of time is also applied to celebrating festivals: they begin when they want, and if they don't want to be done by the end of festival day or week, well, then they just keep letting off bombs.

1 comment:

  1. I thought of this post and laughed to myself today when at the hospital, the two doctors that I worked with were Indian and I could NEVER hear what they were saying. They spoke way to softly. But they always could hear each other. Strange...