There’s a Limit to Tolerance

I don’t like Shivratri.

Up until now, I had no reason to like or dislike the festival. In fact, I would have tended towards liking it, because I got a mid-week holiday on its account. What’s not to like?

And it was a nice day too! Many offices were working and the kids’ daycare was open (school was closed, of course) so I packed off the better half and the kids by 9 a.m. and had the day to myself. We were having guests for dinner, so I was worried that if the cook didn’t turn up (she hasn’t been well) I might have to spend the afternoon cooking (sigh) but she did turn up, so I was spared even that effort. Consequently, I spent a relaxed day browsing the net and reading a magazine.

Around 6 p.m. the temple started up. The temple is diagonally across the road from us, altogether maybe two houses removed. We can see its fairy-light-bedecked outline clearly from our bedroom. Temples have always been anathema to Amit. He eyes them not just with suspicion, but with positive antagonism. I’m a little more tolerant. Temples, I believe, have their place in society, and if they don’t trouble me, I am not troubled by them. But last night, Amit’s mistrust was completely and thoroughly vindicated.

All day, cars had been lining up on the roads outside our home, as people went to the temple. That didn’t trouble me. When the noise started up at 6 p.m., it still didn’t trouble me. Evenings are permitted to be a little noisy – there’s traffic noise to contend with already; temples and barking dogs go unnoticed in the din. And I was too busy getting the children fed and watered, waiting for the guests, getting them settled, putting the kids to bed, and organizing dinner (reheating everything and making rice) to bother about a little background noise.

Our guests left after 10, so it was well past 11 before I got everything sorted and was ready for bed. This didn’t trouble me either. I normally find it difficult to stay awake past 10 p.m. and I jealously guard my early bed-time practice; generally interruptions at bed-time are dealt with curtly. I need my sleep – all seven hours of it. But if friends (or, as in this case, family) come over for dinner, then I don’t mind how late it gets. 11.30 was not very late, anyway. The trouble was, the damn temple was still blasting away. Its loudspeakers only seemed to have got louder as ambient sound died down and people went to bed and turned out the lights. It was loud enough to either scare away or drown out the barking dogs – and that’s saying a lot.

I was tired, so I went to sleep anyway. It was a troubled sleep though, punctuated by the insistent “namo-namo” pounding against my eardrums. Around 3 a.m. I woke with a start. Something different was happening. The chant had changed from droning male voices to frenzied female shrieking. The frequency and decibel level climbed until I thought either the glass windows or my eardrums (or both) would shatter. Then all was silent. “Good riddance; it’s over,” I thought to myself and tried to go back to sleep.

But it was not to be. After a brief spell of silence, the “namo-namo” rubbish started up where it had left off. And this time, it went on straight until 5 a.m. I got up eventually to close the doors and windows in the hope of sound-proofing the room, but a thin sheet of glass is no match for a determined loudspeaker so we continued to be bombarded by the wretched “namo-namo” until 5 a.m. when, just as the chanting stopped, the alarm went off, notifying me that it was time to get up.

What kind of productivity can I achieve on three hours of sleep?

If there must be a Shivratri, then the holiday should be not on the day of the festival, but the day after, so that us poor souls who don’t really give a damn about it have a chance to catch up on sleep. Better still, the festival should, in my opinion, be banned, and anyone using a loudspeaker past 10 p.m. should be rounded up and thrown into the non-existent dog pound along with the yowling street dogs. One night spent sharing a cage might teach them the joy of being forced to listen to someone else singing loud enough to keep you awake all night.


10 Responses to There’s a Limit to Tolerance

  1. Amit Mukherjee says:

    Excellent post. I thoroughly endorse your views. I am pretty much the live and let live type but religion is the bloody bane of this world. I don’t mind religion as long as it does not become a completely unwelcome intrusion. In India, temples (of all denominations) are singularly responsible for noise pollution. They start up at anytime completely unmindful of other people’s needs. Unfortunately, the govt won’t do a thing because they can’t see anything beyond votes and people in general, whether educated or uneducated, rich or poor, tall or short, or young or old will not object to any kind of noise as long it emanates from a ruddy temple. A few of us, who prefer to sleep (at night by the way)rather than stay awake to the incessant repetition of utter nonsense don’t stand a chance because of the existence of the 33 crore gods who have collectively chosen to curse this wretched country.
    I am really incensed but for the sake of decorum I will not put it down everything that I would like to say.


  2. supriya says:

    Poupee: Why the heck didn’t you go and say something at midnight itself? Loudspeakers have to be switched off by 11.30 I think. In fact I was having the same conversation with my mom today that the holiday for shiv ratri souks be the following day since people fast and pray all night.

    Amit: You can’t possibly think that the noise pollution emanating from all sorts of traffic, airplanes, fire crackers, people on cellphones, stray dogs, acs, generators etc. is greater than that from temples! Just because the temple in your neighborhood is loud and noisy doesn’t mean they are so all over the world. As a resident in that locality, surely you can object.
    And most importantly, your policy of live and let live is the best. After all thousands, no millions of people whose problems are far far larger and hopeless than just losing their sleep for one night, derive hope, succour and positive energy from one or the other of the 33 crore gods who ‘curse this country’. It’s called faith and it makes the world go round. Don’t knock it till you try it.

  3. doug H says:

    I agree with you. We have a saying here “the right to extend your arm ends at the point at which my face begins.”
    People should be consciencious of others, period. Especially when people are tying to sleep. Religious celebrations that last all night are no excuse. What a nightmare!

    (I hope you’re able to get in a nap at some point.)

  4. Amit Mukherjee says:

    Supriya: Just imagine the scenario where dozens of men and women in a temple, possessed by a deep religious fervor are belting out hit numbers like non-stop and I, in a half dazed (and half dressed)state walk in and say, “Excuse me, can you please stop singing loudly since it is 2AM and I would like to sleep”, and voila, everyone just pipes down. In fairy tales, witches have curses which shut people up. I need one of those.

    Then your comment “After all thousands, no millions of people whose problems are far far larger and ….. ‘curse this country’.”
    I have no problem if people derive peace and solace from praying. This is the most common explanation provided for the very existence of religion. But does it have to involve screaming and shouting to the point where in Doug’s words, their fist is not just in my face by inside my throat. Do people who pray at home in a quiet and civilised manner derive less benefit from their faith? For me it is a sleepless night and I will make it up the next night. But what about the impact on a person who is very sick and really needs to sleep or a student who has an all important exam the next day.

    Then your comment “As a resident in that locality, surely you can object.”.
    I have actually objected to this kind of behaviour in the past. In Yamuna block. To not much avail. The more important point is why do I need to object? All of us are expected to have basic civic sense. The people who frequent the temple are not riff raff. These people are urban upper middle class folks who wear Levis and drive Skoda. But their collective state was like a person high on grass at a rock concert. Do you think they don’t know that it is wrong to disturb people at night. They just couldn’t give a damn.
    Maybe I am stupid, but I thought that religious places should be quiet, where people can meditate in peace. Go to the holiest of places like Joshimath and Badrinath. All you will hear is loud speakers belting out, not religious songs mind you but the latest Hindi movie songs. Perhaps “Choli ke piche kya hai” is the perfect way for the needy millions to attain nirvana.

  5. Prakash says:

    I have an idea, you could just join the band and say namo-namo and Amit – Choli ke peeche?? Anyway you were awake, you could have joined the party 🙂

    In a way you celebrated Shivrartri in truest sense!

  6. poupee97 says:

    Doug: Not unless you consider being asleep at your desk with your eyes open and purportedly functioning a nap. 🙂

    Prakash: What a brilliant suggestion. I can just imagine it! (And there is no smiley I’m aware of to convey the smile on my face.) 😀

  7. poupee97 says:

    Supriya, Amit: Pipe down, guys. You can slug it out on Saturday.

  8. Amit Mukherjee says:

    Hopefully by Saturday I would have got my sleep back, dog(not God) willing :-). Last night the dogs outside our house started off with their own canine celebration. I just give up.

  9. Prakash says:

    Amit – I would suggest that you start praying the dogs very soon…

  10. poupee97 says:

    Prakash: You are full of good ideas these days! 🙂

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