Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Of Decibels and Desi-Belles

I suppose I have been equanimous about my preference: I cannot stand loud-mouthed women (men too, but definitely not women). When I meet someone new and find them insisting on pulling the entire mall into the conversation, my system shuts down rapidly. I stay away from loud crowds, loud music, loud shirts, etc. And this trip (so far) has blessed me with the most annoying bunch of loud-mouthed people esp. women.
Mom insisted on getting a 3rd AC. As I had said earlier, I prefer travelling in sleeper class (pseudo-masochistic?). One look at the sun in Hydi and I decided to listen to my mom. Like often enough, I regretted that! :-(
Its a foolish notion that many people bear: people who spend more are more decent, well, at least they are more snobbish or something of that sort. People all over tell me "A/C-aa? Nice people!" I would have prefered all of them to be snobbish, so that no one talks to anyone and I have all the quiet in the world to myself. But no, God sure decided to put money into the wrong pockets this summer. Our compartment was filled to the teeth with the noisiest human beings. My mom and I took fancy to the game of occasionally exchanging glances which usually meant one of the following: "THIS is decent?" or "Can't these holy pig-heads shut up?" or "What is the going rate for cotton used in stuffing animals and mouths?"
This lady barged in with her son but her shouting orders and instructions reached us before like the twitching of the eye before disaster. She wouldn't shut up and kept telling us "Enna cheyardhu? Ivan pechey ketka maataan" (What can I do? He never listens to me). If she had stopped making that statement, we would have been deprived of 80% of the noise in the compartment; without regrets. She yawned with her mouth wide open (the first time I saw a tunnel in a train). Yuck! And she was ready to repeat that trick as many times as it fancied her absent brain. She kept shrieking to herself, to her son and to the world in general. I gave her time till 21:00 hrs. After that I was going to ask her to shut up, in the most uncensored fashion. I couldn't concentrate on my book, relish my snacks or even catch forty winks (most of which were lost over a few sleepless nights which preceded this trip). She was jarring. My only reprieve was this lady in pink who walked past our berths once every 45 minutes or so. Pretty lady... and then... noise!!!!
Like Providence at its favourite game, 21:00 hrs saw her shut up like magic! :-( I missed my chance of shouting her head off her shoulders. I don't quite expect you to understand the utter frustration of losing such an opportunity. I was waiting and planning for hours... I had rehearsed the dialogues and prepared rebuttals to her possible responses... Damn! I had nearly tasted blood before ... Damn!
After she shut up, the rest of the compartment took over (or were they muted by sheer volume, earlier?). Someone had to argue that 17 was theirs, only to have light dawn on them and their tickets and reveal that it is not 17 but 7 that belonged to them. Such people should be shot as soon as they were born! Winchester...
Madras woke me up with sultry air and early birds smeared with parallel lines of vibuthi (ash), as endless and strict as the railway tracks they crossed or sat over.
And then the cacophony started. Relatives and noise go hand in hand, especially when they are placed within a radius of 10 meters. Like the S shell in atomic physics. They had to shriek into your ears while they spoke to someone a few yards away. I actually ran away from home. I did, honestly.
I got on the roads. I prefered that maddening heat to the noise. Got into a run-down PTC bus and regretted my move again. The ladies had to fight right between the 5th and 8th seat (from the front) and made sure everyone participated. It was so funny and noisy when an old lady turns towards me and asks me to say something, that too in Tamil. I fumbled and asked them to let me know when T-Nagar bus stop came into someone's view. Someone said "Romba mukhyam" (a sarcastic way of letting me know that what I said was the most pointless and stupid thing in the world). I got off the bus and back on the roads. The sheer expanse of the roads swallowed all noises save the blowing horns (which reminded me of the women I met ever since I left Hydi) and the heat kept tongues busy at licking lips.
I avoided the main road (near Valluvarkottam) as there was this tea shop playing loud dampan-kuththu (a really well designed mix of rap, samba and cacophony with lyrics I have never understood. What on earth is "O podu"? Drop an "O"?)
Madras (the one I was presented) doesn't like quiet. People discuss serials and recipes and how Iyer-mami's daughter ran away with Chettiar-mama's son and how "I knew something was going on between them long ago..." right beside me, while I am on the phone. They love to hear Mariamma bhajans on full volume from the temple a few streets away. They love to fight near the water pumps and let the water evaporate while they decide whose pot should be filled first (with what? Steam?). The heat suddenly makes every voice louder and every touch feel like a slap.

Let's see what Bombay has in store for me...

(The above post was created 2 days after I reached Madras. Apart from that and the heat and ... forget it. So as I was saying, apart from that and a few others, the trip was good. I will detail my Bombay trip soon. Well, the trip from Madras to Bombay was noisy too! :-( , but not THAT bad)


  1. A trip to Chennai in May is a tolerance building exercise - that is evident from your post.

    The tolerance of us locals is at its lowest and the mercury is soaring constantly. Which means that we are hardly hospitable to the visitors. BTW, did you try the autowallahs? They are a class apart in summer hospitality!

  2. Haha...I wonder who the snob is ;) Welcome back. Or are you off again?

  3. Dear a,
    That's the whole problem. No one was a snob on the train and hence all that noise!!! :-)) Well, if not a snob, they should have been at least a little... forget it! I am back for (partial) good. I love travelling and would do so at the drop of a hat.

    Dear E,
    Tolerance and headache. The funny part was on Sunday (22nd). I had planned on meeting a few people and met none. I had no plans of going to the temple and I ended up visiting 3 of them (that day was also Narasimha Jayanti which I got to know towards the end of the day!!!). None of my plans worked. Wanted to take mom out for a lunch or dinner (for her b'day) and she ended up brushing it off as something she couldn't do at her age (everyone walks around thinking they are Avvaiyaar's younger sister!). All plans down the drain... I didn't bustle too much with the rick-guys. They have a rate which increases with the temperature. I worked with one of them and gave him a plan to reduce the heat within the auto (vetti-vaeru mat soaked in water and tied to the top of his auto). He was thrilled and then told me "I will put it up only for the front half!!" Selfish bugger...

  4. I dont think you get ammani's point[wrt I wonder who the snob is ;)]*wink*
    But I understand your plight.I hate louth-mouthed people myself-my ear drums seem to tear within and it hurts like hell :(

  5. Dear W,
    I got it loud and clear :-)) She doesn't let me miss it, does she? ;-) Which is why I said that there wasn't snob on the train, hence all the noise (in the train and in my head). :-)