Indians are the most vocal of all the people in the world or to put it in other way, India is probably the noisiest country in the world.
We have used every single invention to increase the noise levels as if the noise we make is not enough. Air Horns, reverse Horns, televisions at full volume, public meetings with antiquated sound systems and of course the Telephone. I don’t know if there is a scientific study on talk time around the world. We would top the chart and our talk time record would show that we speak more than the next 10 countries put together.
I was having breakfast, couple of days back, in a decent restaurant. A man sitting in the opposite table, ordered food and spoke for next 20 minutes on his mobile phone first to a vendor as an irate customer and next to his colleague venting out all his anger. He did not even look at the food that was served. He was so engrossed on his shouting march that he did not bother to see most of the people were watching him. No cell phone inside the restaurant is not a concept we would get used to.
There is an old saying in Tamil which goes like this; “if the child begins to talk late he/she will become very talkative later.” I am wondering, as a civilisation if we had developed speech much later than others; so after probably fifty or hundred thousand years we are still playing ‘catch up.’
I live in Hyderabad amidst hundreds of call centres and IT companies. I see young women and men start talking into their cell phones, the moment they are out of the office. These companies work in shifts and people come out at 2 AM or early morning. In my early morning jogs, I used to see every one getting on to their phone as soon they start walking. Out of curiosity, I asked a couple of young men who were they calling at this godforsaken hour. The immediate reply was, ‘to someone who is just getting off the shift like me.’
After talking for eight hours in the night (their job in the call centre is to talk to customers), I don’t know where do they find the interest and energy to talk more. As I said, we are probably wired for this.
Most of us would not realise the level of noise we are making as we are born in this surrounding. Except when you are ill and want lie down quietly, you would not notice these high octane pitch. The first time it hits you is when you return from a short stay abroad. Or you are coming home after a 10 day Vipassana Course.
I first noticed it after returning from a three week stay in Australia in the early nineties. Australia is two times bigger in size and has one fiftieth of population compared to India. There, you can hardly see anyone to talk to if you move away from Sydney or Melbourne. I was in Tasmania (sparkly populated state); so finding someone to even say ‘hello’ was difficult. Once I got lost in Devenport, a small town in Tasmania at a Y junction. I was not sure which one would lead to my hotel. Even at 8 o clock in the evening, I could not find anyone to ask for direction. After a 20 minute wait I took a right and realised it was wrong after walking a kilometre, turned back took the other one and reached the hotel. I did not see a soul in that one hour which is unlikely to happen anywhere in India unless you are on a trek in the Himalayas, alone.
It was early hours when I touched down in Bombay, and when I came out the noise just hit me. The honking from Taxis, the arguments between the agents from hotel, the loud conversations of a thousand people waiting for their near and dear ones arrivals. It continued to hurt my ears till I reached home in Pune which used to be a six hour drive to cover 150 kilometres those days (if you are lucky that is). After a couple of trips, I got used to this.
UK and Europe have severe restrictions on talk off and landing after midnight to control the noise levels. So all the airlines slot this ungodly hours for landing in India. Why would we bother about jet engines noise? anyway we make more sound than a dozen jets, is probably one of the reasons why we allow airlines to land in all Indian airports during what the cities in the west call sound curfew hours.
Our loud talks, arguments and the tone of our speech, every thing can be taken with a pinch of salt. The problem is we find new ways, everyday, to add to the overall noise levels. In India you can’t enter a lift without machine voice reminding you to close the door after you. It will keep ringing in your ears for hours after you got out of the lift. So we now have a billion people and a billion machines talking all the time in India.
In Delhi airport (the biggest in India) the moment you get into a travellator, the machine asks you in two languages to hold on to the handrail. If your terminal is away from the security gate, you would get onto half a dozen of them and there would be 10 minute, non stop barrage in your ears to hold on to the rails. You can’t escape the noise even if you decide to walk to your gate; the intensity of the sound is so much that it reverberates across the airport.
And then the boarding and half a dozen other announcements. Don’t leave your baggage unattended. Don’t carry this; don’t go there. All these announcements in 3 languages (the state language, English and Hindi the official language). For years, I used to ask the airport staff why so many announcements when there so many screens displaying the departure information. The standard reply is “DGCA rules sir – an organisation like the FAA. I used to tell them that the biggest airports in the world have only two announcements, one, if there is a change in gate or making final call. And both you could listen only if you are keen. In India, we blast the passengers’ ears with these announcements with some of the biggest loudspeakers. You can’t escape it.
The ‘final call’ itself is a comedy played out in most of the airports. Half way during the boarding process, they would start announcing “This is the final call for 6E 6939 to Bangalore.” Mind you this is in 3 languages and repeat it for next 10 minutes. Once I counted 12 final call announcements and in 3 languages, it came to 36 shoutings. And this is in some of the brand new airpots where the gates have modern display terminals giving out all the information a passenger may need.
Thankfully some airports are becoming silent airport but there are still hundred other place which keep yelling all the time getting on your nerves.
Even in this chaos and commotion, an airline tries to excel and beat others by inventing new methods to shout at you every day and that is the best airline in India – Indigo.
Every airline, has a tag line; Etihad Airlines – Flying Reimagined, Emirates – Hello Tomorrow, Singapore Airlines – A Great Way to Fly, Air India – Truly Indian. I am not sure if Indigo has one but if they don’t have they can use this. Indigo – the noisy airline- even at 30,000 feet above, we bring you the taste of India.
Indigo has the beston-time record in India. They have a modern fleet and is run very efficiently. In the last 10 years, I did not face a single cancellation or an inordinate delay while flying in Indigo. The staff, though not friendly are efficient. So I have nothing agains the airline (and I travel with them every other week). But what I can’t fathom is why they want to get on to everyone’s head right from the boarding time. Even in a so called silent airport, they make announcements (not sure, how they manage it).
First they will announce that they are going to board soon (oh yes! in two or three languages). The next announcement is who should board when. The third one will extort to you to check if your baggage tag is stamped.
If you are on a shuttle, you had it. The moment the driver starts the bus, he would play all the recorded messages; that you should hold on to the rails for your safety; children should be taken care of. You need to check if you are carrying your own luggage or you are flicking off someone else’s bag.
And Indigo starts the boarding process so early, by the time you reach the aircraft, the maintanence crew will be still cleaning it. So you are struck in the bus and the recorded messages asking you to hold onto the rails would keep playing even when the bus is stationary. Since last couple of months, they have gone a step ahead. Assuming there would be a delay in boarding the aircraft, the machine will shout at you while you are in the bus, that there may be a delay and they are sorry for it.
You thought at last you escaped the noise pollution and once you are inside the aircraft you are going to better off. Wrong. I have already mentioned that they start the boarding early. Once you are inside the aircraft, they have other tricks to get you. “We are refuelling the place. Don’t wear belt and keep quiet.” And this will go one for few minutes (what looks like an eternity in a closed cabin) and then half a dozen other announcements will take over. You can keep the bags here or there, we have extra leg space seat you can pay a fee and get there. We have shopping; we have food service.
Smart airlines have changed the mandetory security announcements. Qatar airlines uses video of famous footballers (Messi would tell you how to wear your seat belt or how to get your oxygen mask), Fly Dubai uses excellent animated films. We follow the same shouting started 60 odd years ago.
The slanging march will continue during the flight to make sure you don’t get a much deserved nap after going to airport early in the morning losing overnight sleep. There would be announcements about new routes or awards won or asking you to empty the trash so that the TAT (turn around time) is reduced. They will find a way to engage you.
You alight, get into one more bus and the sound saga will start all over again. Welcome to this city; thanks for flying with us. Hold on to rails; take care of your bags and children (in that order).
I am sure, soon, Indigo would find out if you are taking an Uber or Ola form the airport and follow you with their advice; “wear seatbelt. Check if the driver is following speed limit. Did you put your bags in the boot? Did you leave the trolly in the dedicated bay?” etc. etc. I only hope once I get to my home, they will leave me alone.
How an airline, which is the most popular in India is so impervious to this noise pollution and so insensitive is beyond my comprehension.
More than the global warning, I fear the noise pollution in India would get to us fast. While the global warming may take 50 odd years to get you, these noises, airlines made and others would make us stone deaf by the next decade. Oh yeah; there is an advantage in that; you won’t hear those “hold on to handrail” advice anymore.