Noise pollution is not just from firecrackers or blaring air horns or cone shaped loudspeakers or construction activity. It can emanate from insensitive and ill-mannered folks in public places – co-passengers or other customers in restaurants. Often, we tend to take such lousy behaviour in our stride, lest our polite disapproval snowballs into a scene or confrontation. In that spirit of ‘it happens’ sort of tolerance, lies this unbridled nuisance that most of us may have got accustomed to.
We went on a short family vacation after 6 long years. Our return train journey was marred by children playing games inside the compartment and shrieking almost incessantly. A baby crying is a completely different scenario. There, the mother invariably does her best to calm the child down. And in any case, the wailing stops in sometime, and even if it goes on or stops and resumes, it is usually beyond any parents’ control. So, that is perfectly understandable.
My grouse is with 9- or 10-year-olds bringing the roof down for hours on end. Children have boundless energy. And cannot easily be restrained. Kids will be kids. I get all that and more. But what were the parents doing when the rest of the passengers were conscripted to the frolic. Did they move a finger to calm the kids down, even when senior citizens were visibly disturbed from their sleep? Zilch. Why? Because they were busy listening to music and watching videos on their mobile phones full blast without the elementary courtesy of using ear-phones. So, it was a fusion orchestra, fueled by gross insensitivity and negligence to the exasperation of fellow passengers. Indian Railways can consider introducing ‘Silent Compartments’ for a premium fare.
Were we like that while growing up? Not a chance. A stern glare from our parents would suffice to make us behave. Are most of our children like that? Not my kids who are just 12 and were themselves perturbed by the yelling and screaming in the compartment. My daughter muttered: “Is this a playground?” My son summed up the agony: “We need another vacation to get over this!” Egged on by my wife, I took the politically correct stance in sync with Ronan Keating: “You say it best when you say nothing at all”.
Come to think of it, this practice of listening to loud music in public places without headphones is gathering momentum. Last week at a popular restaurant, a group of boisterous morning walkers in sweaty T-Shirts chose the space next to our table and under the fan to air out their lavender smelling arm-pits and to stroke their wet hair, as their mobile phones were blaring out some heavy metal number. The complimentary ‘cocktail’ did not tickle our taste buds but assaulted our ear drums and nostrils! These are all well-educated folks from upper middle class or affluent backgrounds. I am quite sure that their acts were not intentional. It’s just that people don’t care how their behaviour impacts others.
Why am I complaining so much? Are we not better off than co-passengers at the receiving end of drunken barbarians who urinate, defecate and spit inside flights?
Please turn on Pearl Jam’s ‘Mind Your Manners’. Pretty please.
(Sanjay Pinto is an Advocate practising at the Madras High Court, Columnist, Author of 4 Books & Former Resident Editor of NDTV 24×7)