Being seen but not heard could be the latest trend if the leonine environment and forests minister Jairam Ramesh has his way. India, whispered the Grand Vizier of Green, is far too noisy. So if you are thinking of forcefully stressing a point, think again for the Ambient Noise Monitoring Network may be upon you. It will first silence the bigger metros before moving to the smaller ones. For many Indians, this will mean that their very raison d’etre will be on shaky ground.
The first question we must put to the conservation commissar is how he proposes to ensure that his honourable colleagues in Parliament will keep their decibels down. It is as rare as spotting the Great India Bustard (we’ve spellchecked the word twice lest there’s a nitpicking MP reading this) to see a politico speak in measured tones, barring a few exceptions. The faithful follow their lead. From our vegetable vendors to our television debates, we certainly believe that a six-foot voice is what grabs attention. Then we have our festivals like Diwali and Holi with their raucous revelry, the louder, the better. And noise has divine sanction in India. Those of us who have lain awake night listening to the glass-shattering tones of Bhagwati jagrans may agree with the minister’s mission to keep people mum. But we are unlikely to make our protestations heard above the Om Jai Jagdish melodies in hypersound. Auditory offences extend to crackers and horns.
But we fear that all this will have little effect on those who have become tone deaf to these very high decibels over the years. Even an intimate task like speaking on the phone is usually loud enough for the benefit of people within a kilometre radius. So, it is clear that we will not go quietly into the shadows despite Mr Ramesh’s efforts to reduce the volume. We suggest that he stops speaking as animatedly as he does so that he can lead by example. Maybe his next missives should be in sign language. Did we hear you say hear, hear?