100 Days in India Project

Ramakrishna Mission in New Delhi, India

2/ 100 Always Take Earplugs to India

The one thing I can never convey through my photographs is the noise in India. It is relentless and invades your mind continuously. It never stops. It is there when you wake in the morning, and there when you try to get some well-earned rest at night. I even dreamt about the noise.

The majority of the cacophony comes from their car, motorbike and truck horns. They don’t sound their horn as an occasional warning in a tricky situation as we might do. Instead they use it almost continually to alert people that they are turning a corner, moving lanes, speeding up, slowing down, driving in a straight line. You get the idea. It is quite common to see motorbikes with the horn wired into the ‘on’ position permanently.

Some of the noises are more biological. In one apartment, in Varanasi, the evening cacophony played out the same way every single day. Around 10pm folk would begin to settle down for the night then, for some reason only known to the monkeys, there would be a fight amongst these noisy inhabitants of the minarets and telephone lines. The shrieks would then start the dogs barking followed by women shouting at the dogs, and men shouting at the women. After 30 minutes the noise would return to the steady hum of traffic and horns until the sound of over-zealous teeth cleaning began.

Through the open windows of countless bathrooms along the street there would be the sound of brushing, gargling, spitting and every other guttural noise you can think of. It seems that for many Indian people their regime of dental hygiene isn’t complete until every last drop of toothpaste and mucous has been thoroughly evacuated from their mouths. Eventually the cleaning would end and we could drift off into a fitful sleep. Until a monkey accidentally elbowed it’s neighbour and the whole concert would begin again.

Luckily for us soft-eared Westerners there are a few rare pockets of respite, at least in the day time. Walking around you can often find gates, like the one in this picture leading to the Ramakrishna Mission in New Delhi. The high-walled compounds of temples and missions are, in a way, a little like I hope my own heaven would be. Peaceful, clean havens for nature, study and contemplation that allow you to step off of the street and into a moment of relative serenity. For us they were a little oasis of peace.

Always take earplugs to India.