Friday, April 22, 2011

Walking in Rishikesh (Hear)

Brief Note: I originally had a video for both this entry and the next on touch. Unfortunately, I have been unable to upload the videos anywhere. As a result (and seeing as I've been in Thailand almost a month and would like to write about that), I am going to post both without the videos, but when I return home, I will add them.

Walking in Rishikesh- Hear

When I first emerge from my somewhat quieter sanctuary, the sounds are overwhelming. Mostly, they consist of the roars of engines, the chatter of shopkeepers and families, the high voices of children, and the blaring of horns that scream on long past what I would consider I polite alert. 

After a few moments, other sounds penetrate the overwhelming and nearly constant chatter that often extends into the night. Shop keepers, stall owners, and people on the street converse in lower tones, negotiating prices and talking to one another. A man yells in English ‘ice cream’, and a beggar says something quietly with an outstretched hand, sounding like a moan. From the left come beating hammers that gave off the distinct sound of metal on metal, and the crackling buzz of a torch sauntering steel, in rhythm with a radio in Hindi, situated next to a man standing with his cart of wooden boxes. Next door, a cell phone tune rings out with Hindi music, and a cart pushes by, the wheels sounding like bells or chimes.

Somebody turns a crank on a sugarcane juice extractor, and the metal wheel moves with the grating movements I had expected from the carts. The cows’ hooves are nearly silent on the pavement, but when I listen, I can hear the slow, low clap of hooves, like hollow wood on tile. Shopkeepers flick at their goods with stripped cloth dusters, snapping and firm, and the brush of straw brooms on pavement mingle with the quiet popping of corn in a pan. 

The water doesn’t really sound, but between the wind and the river, it laps lazily at staircases. Tin bicycle bells clink lightly, and the whirling of fans fill the air with a swishing haste. 

The rickshaw horn is distinctive. Old fashioned, almost as if from some comical cartoon from a different age. It is a bit flat, loud, and almost always sounded twice. 

In the evening, the sounds changed. There is more chanting. Even (if you are in the right place) the crackling of fires that sound like wind. The barking of a dog disturbs the peace, that noisy peace that allows for the general background music of the water, the motorbikes, the bicycles, and the people. Things are only very rarely silent on this relatively calm back road. 

I have heard that Indian people who travel elsewhere either have to play something in the background when they are inside, or get tired quickly of the noiselessness elsewhere. Silence is so much louder when you become accustomed to the constant noise of a life-filled world. 

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