Within the noise, the peace of eternal silence

Within the noise, the peace of eternal silence

The last day of the festive occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi was celebrated with the usual song and dance. The flashiest numbers were heard on the streets as people grooved to the tunes of the latest hits and bid adieu to the deity.

It was also the end of a festival where noise levels were the highest in three years. According to NGO Awaaz Foundation, which monitors noise pollution in Mumbai, levels were highest around Opera House, where, according to an article in The Indian Express, processions using a DJ, drums and metal cylinders, recorded 121.3dB. It was second highest at S V Road Santacruz, 120.2dB.

In Borivali’s Sai Baba Nagar, while the people of Mumbai were shutting their windows and downing the drapes to keep the noise at bay, businessman Kalpesh Vyas (50)  seemed totally at ease, as he observed the hubbub. The reason becomes clear when one talks to him. He was born hearing impaired, finds meaning in the sound of silence and communicates through hand signs and a select vocabulary with his family and his friends.

Kalpesh Vyas, enjoying the Ganesh Chaturthi festival

The noise does not affect him, already setting him apart from the hundreds of thousands seriously affected by the sounds of celebration. Active and very friendly, it was easy to communicate with him. And immediately he set us right when asked what Ganeshotsav meant to him.

This was one festival where there wasn’t any discrimination between him and the rest of the world when it came to enjoying the festivities. For instance, during Navratri, hearing becomes extra important with garba and the ability to dance to rhythm and music.  This makes it difficult to the hearing impaired to really participate.

 Diwali, which also has a lot of music and dancing, can sometimes underline differences, though the fireworks make up for most of it. But the ten days of Ganpati? Kalpeshbhai says he makes the most out of this time and finds a sense of satisfaction and fulfilment in the decorations and the bright lights and the sight of devotees thronging to the pandals to worship.

Kalpesh Vyas Born without the ability to hear, he finds meaning in the sound of silence
Kalpesh Vyas

The highlights for him, exemplifying the spirit of the festival are the mandapas, which are glamorously decorated with flower garlands, small banana saplings, lights, etc or theme-based decorations, which depict religious themes or current events. According to Kalpesh, these are the prettiest sights around and it’s a beautiful time of the year.

A tradition that has long since been prevalent in Indian households is whispering into the ears of the idol. It is believed that the wishes are then conveyed to the higher power, and are thus fulfilled. Does this hold a special significance for a man who hasn’t ever felt sounds? We may never know. With a social interaction that is inclusive and personal, Kalpesh sees the world in a different light.

Asked what he thought about all the complaints of too much noise during the celebrations, not surprisingly, Kalpeshbhai was a bit harsh. He said, “Everyone should be deaf. Yes, it sounds harsh at first, but if one would actually stop to think about it, it would seem the most practical solution to the menace of the noise that one finds unbearable. People would be more sensitised to the matter, if they were affected in some way. The loud hubbub wouldn’t be heard if everyone was oblivious to sound.”

The festivities have ended, the city has gone back to its regular routine, noise levels rise and fall. But Kalpesh Vyas sits in the balcony of his abode, watching the mayhem of an everyday world without sound. Perhaps he smiles to himself because he has found what we all look for- an oasis of peace within the chaos, which is the sound of silence within himself.

Noise Report during Ganpati Visarjan
Source: DNA India

According to norms, noise levels in “silence zones” cannot exceed 50 dB during the day and 40 dB after 10 pm. In residential areas, the levels are set at 55 dB during the day and 45 dB after 10 pm, while in commercial zones, the levels are capped at 65 dB during the day and 55 dB after 10 pm.

Krystelle Dsouza

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