Zen in the city?

Have you been woken up at 1 AM? By the sound of large 100 Kg stone slabs being dropped? Trust me, it’s not nice. First there is denial – “this can’t be happening”. Then there is annoyance – “WTF?!”. Then there is anger. You walk out, confront them. Turns out it’s BBMP this time delivering slabs to cover the storm water drains. But surely, there’s a better time to do that?

“We’ll be done sir, only 20 stones to go” he promises. You call the police. The police control room forwards the call to the local police station. The local police station calls you. “Should we come over?”. You hand over your phone to one of the workers. The police have a chat, and they talk to me. “He says only 10 minutes, what do you want us to do?” I agree to give them 10 more minutes. They finish in 7 and leave, not before giving me a cheeky “Sorry for the disturbance”, in English.

Fun part is, despite so many houses all around, not one even opened a window to as much as check what’s happening. It could’ve been someone stealing stuff, or dumping stones from other places in your area. Would you care? Would you speak up?

A few weeks back, I opened the window to talk to a neighbour who’s car reverse horn just rendered a full version of Vandemataram at 1:15 AM. “Dude, WTF?” He thinks I am referring to some stray dogs shouting near him. “What can I do?”, I ask him to tone down on the vehicle. “Not my car boss, company’s and they’ve installed it.” Well, at least don’t park on reverse when you’re late! “ok” he agreed grudgingly. He followed it for a week, then doesn’t bother. I know I can’t push it too far, people can be touchy about their cars, and being asked to pipe down. The threatening “Ei!” comes out sooner than later.

The fun part is that reverse horns have been banned since 2014. A lot of cars still get sold, brand new, with these horns installed by the showrooms. A complaint with the traffic police got a “Check with RTO” as response. RTO isn’t easy to communicate with. Means, you just suffer idiots taking their cars out early in the morning, or parking it in late in the night.

What is it about people that makes them lose all sense of civic sense when it comes to cars? The number of times I’ve had to hurriedly shield my mother from being knocked down by a speeding car which refuses to slow down, even though we’ve entered a part of the road which is too narrow and can’t get out before he reaches us! I even signal him to slow down as we can’t move anywhere. He doesn’t care. It’s scary! People die. And someone actually complained on Twitter that pedestrians are at fault for coming in front of vehicles. Yes, get killed in 1000s per year and get blamed for it.

I wonder why am the only person who seems to be bothered by this ridiculous noise pollution at odd hours. Surely others would also wake up because of this noise? The answer seems to be a case of “neevoo maadalva?” (don’t you also do this?) The entire city suffers all things thrown at it, in the hope and need that one day they’ll have to do something similar and don’t want to be disturbed at that time. Better not be the first stone thrower.

As more people buy cars, it is unlikely there’ll be any respite from this nonsense. People seem to leave their brains at home, and drive only on ego. The solution might be to train the brain to ignore noises, especially when sleeping. The direction am taking seems to be the opposite. Reverse horns seem to bring out some stress in me, that my brain is recognising as an alarm call to alert me about. This results in me being woken up in the middle of the night even from deep sleep, and in a sense of agitation that makes it harder to get back to sleep. Normal horns sounded as some vehicles pass by don’t seem to have the same effect.

The entire city runs on saying “don’t care”. Got woken up by some noise? Give it a few minutes and you can sleep again. No noise lasts for ever. Maybe there is some Zen in the way people respond to disturbances. Should everyone be emulating this? But when do you take a stand? How much is too much?