Giving a Hoot


Mumbai is a very noisy city.  According to one report quoted in the local press, it’s the third-noisiest city in the world.  I’ve gotten somewhat accustomed to the noise over time, but then I look at the almost-maxed-out volume level on my IPod when I’m in stuck in traffic and realize exactly how loud the street noise is.  Cars honking, trucks rumbling and growling, rickshaws buzzing—all the natural sounds of the city combine for ever-present background noise.  Especially the cars honking. 

So, in what seemed to me a pretty optimistic move, the city declared this past Monday “No Honking Day.”  I was out of town most of the day, but when I returned that evening, I was curious to see what impact the day was having.  As soon as my rickshaw pulled out of the airport, I could hear the familiar sounds of honking horns over all the other noise.  At least they weren’t honking at the airport. 

I’m happy the city made some effort to reduce the noise for a day, but just reducing honking won’t do much.  It won’t stop the road crew from using their jackhammer outside my building at 2am on Saturday night.  Or the construction crews just below my window from turning on their deafening generator every morning at 7am—except those few days when they decide to turn it on at 6am.  Or the firecrackers at midnight.  And what about the thousands of homeless who sleep on sidewalks all over the city?  I’m lucky I have a place where at least I can shut a door against the noise. 

Next time, I think the city should declare “Make Way for Ambulances Day.”  Then cars can honk all they want as long as they get out of the way.  The only problem is that it’s often hard to hear a siren over all the noise.  I think our ambulance sirens aren’t very loud, so I suggested at work that we put more powerful sirens on our vehicles.  That way people can hear the ambulances coming much earlier and have more time to pull over, making everyone safer.  I was told, though, that the police had already cited our ambulances twice for excessive siren noise.  Go figure.

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