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The gods must be hearing impaired!

4 August 2005
Posted in: Scratchpad, Social issues | 9 Comments

Well, we’ve all heard about the gods being crazy and having a warped sense of humour, but if you are a religious Indian, the chances are that God is deaf! Nope, not because our prayers fall on unheeding divine ears, but because we seem to think that when it comes to getting the message across, DECIBEL MATTERS.

In a country that has seen terrible communal riots—indeed, was partitioned on religious lines almost sixty years ago—it might be touching to note that followers of the two most popular religions are firmly united in their views that without a loudspeaker our prayers will not reach the heavens. I will willingly subject to a painful death anyone who holds romanticized notions of Indian religion: of muted temple bells and soothing azaans; mellow, bearded maulvis and saffron-clothed, barefoot pandits.

Reality is quite different. Social norms now dicate that brashness matters. Bigger, gaudier, louder. You get the picture.

Around this time of the year, Hindu pilgrims from the Himalayas descend into the plains, carrying holy water from Gangotri (beating up everyone who dares cross their path and making normal life for anyone living in the vicinity of their route quite impossible; in the past week, they have killed at least one person in Delhi and burnt an entire bus!). Of course, I am exaggerating, but only a little bit, for these pilgrims create havoc with the infrastructure. These… er… lovely people have free food, entertainment and other conveniences laid out for them thanks to the local administration (with taxpayers’ money, of course, not to mention their electricity and water supply). They ostensibly travel on foot, and encourage others to do so as well because they take up most of the space on roads. Living right on National Highway 8 (Grand Trunk Road), for the past week have had to put up with three gaudy tents across the streets, blaring music (different music, but simultaneously) non-stop all day. I have to shout to be heard inside the same room; haven’t slept; and can barely hear myself think.

Add to that the friendly neighbourhood mosque bellowing prayers loud enough to make your eardrums vibrate regularly five times a day, and you have a readymade hell. When Ramzaan comes along, we get a blow-by-blow account of the sun’s rising and setting over the loudspeaker right outside my window (and as the holy caretaker happens to run a restaurant just outside the mosque, we also get to hear the day’s menu!).

Oh, and let’s not forget the latest local rage: jagrans (prayer vigils), a Hindu ritual where one stays up all night praying (I think). What people do inside their own houses is their business, but not when they do it in front of a microphone!

Of course, this brings up the obvious question that why don’t the local adminstration do something? Well, it’s because when it comes to religion, skins are very thin in this part of the world. In the name of religion, you can get away with just about anything.

~PD

9 Responses

  1. Whitty says:

    Wow….that’s insane! And almost the opposite over here in America. It’s like this big taboo with religion. Espically in schools. Just crazy. We’re all going to destroy each other long before the earth gets hit with a stray comet or the sun blows up or whatever else. Just insane.

  2. Marie says:

    I don’t think so, Whitney. Religion, well Christianity, has made a huge comeback in the States. “Born Again” seems almost trendy. TV preachers are raking in the big money, and organizing protests against things they see as ‘anti-christian’.

    It all depends on where you sit. If you’re a part of the movement, things are going great. If not, things are going horrible. Being a non-christian is hard in America. I never really understood it until I was on that side of the fence. It’s EVERYWHERE! There’s TV stations, commercials, people on street corners, on our money…

    So while America isn’t quite as bad as India, I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s how we ended up.

    I think we should move to Sweden, Payal!

  3. Kaitlin says:

    That is truly nuts! You’d need a pair of industrial strength earplugs to get any sleep, and from the sounds of it that might not even be enough. With times and technology changing, surely you would think the local governments would have foreseen this to some degree! But, if it is like you said it would not matter. There’s got to be a more logical way of housing pilgrims so that the din is lessened somewhat. And microphones? That is absurd!

  4. Alpana says:

    I empathise. I live next to a school where every morning a woman with a very screechy voice stands in front of a mike and sings the national anthem. I think the time has come to form a gang whose only task will be to smash all loud speakers in the city . what say?

  5. Payal says:

    I say we do the gang thing and then all move to Sweden 😉 !

  6. Kaitlin says:

    Good idea, Payal. You guys will be the Sweden Gang. It would be perhaps the only one? 😉

  7. Meenal says:

    hey

    nice title, i think that people try to do what they can in the name of religion.Not only do they not sleep and not pray , they dont others sleep in peace either…

    I have always wondered why would God need to be invoked through eardrum-shattering music .You just answered my question..because he/she must be deaf.

    btw I heard that loudspeakers are now banned after 10 at night? Is that right?

  8. Payal says:

    They are banned at night, yes, but enforcing it is another issue altogether! It’s the same old argument: We’re doing this in the name of religion; how dare you oppose it!

  9. Hi Payal,
    I am not sure if the Gods are hearing impaired! But about the people and authorities responsible for enforcing law and order, I have no doubts! And to say that they are helpless when faced with religion, and its practitioners, is nothing but an eyewash. Else, how come the same logic or constraint didn’t stop the courts of justice to pass an order banning the use of loudspeakers – yes, even at religious places – after 10 pm?

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