Just the other night, I woke up for no particular reason. No barking dogs, no drunken rants from next door, no errant cars. As I turned over to resume my repose, it occurred to me just how quiet it actually was. I strained my ears to catch the inevitable interruption. The deep silence remained unbroken. Seconds passed, then minutes. I had no idea what time it was. But no dogs, no cars, no drunks. Absolute, pure silence: the world around me was at rest.
For a few more minutes, I relished the luxury of silence. I knew too well that the beehive of Nepali lives would begin buzzing soon, and would continue to do so throughout the day.
We are so accustomed to noise in our neighbourhoods that we indulge in it as a matter of course ourselves, shouting, tooting and blaring our way through the day. Last week in a microbus, I was forced to listen to a young woman whine along to a medley of English and Hindi pop cheeping from her mobile phone, never mind that the vehicle's speakers were also booming out choice selections. Where's the sense in that, I felt like asking her, (feeling like) slowly throttling her into eternal silence.
What's the big deal, you might say, why make a fuss about noise? Just like the concept of privacy, the right to a little tranquility can too easily be dismissed as an individualistic Western concept. But if we are to embrace specific Western values as good and wholesome, then perhaps we should also consider whether other such values are equally worthy. Pick and choose for a hybrid of Western and Nepali values, sure, but this should be a considered process, not random.
Take the concept of individual freedom so beloved of Nepalis of late. In modern times, this is indubitably a Western concept, with individual freedoms coordinating to create a working democracy. The key word here is coordination. For if everyone was to do whatever they felt like doing, in the name of freedom, individual freedoms would only coalesce into a morass of anarchy. Counterweights are needed to ensure that individuals exercise not just their rights, but also their responsibilities.
Not making unnecessary noise is one of these responsibilities that counterweight the right to express oneself loudly. Yes, it does sound petty, but not when you begin to see that noise pollution can cause annoyance, aggression, high blood pressure, and stress, among other select perks of living in close quarters with millions of people. God knows this city is hard enough to live in, for all its unspoken joys. Why make it harder?
The right to tranquility is not such a Western concept either, if you can hear yourself think above the roar of the office generator, the "su ayo, su ayo" of your colleague's son, and the visiting idiot whose declamations over the phone can be heard across 50 metres of open-plan office space. Tranquility, or passaddhi, is a key Buddhist concept that translates into tranquility of the body, speech, thoughts, and consciousness. Whatever for, you may well ask. The answer is enlightenment. Passambhati bhava.
How to achieve a 100 per cent pass rate in the SLC, PETER SUTORIS
Keeping the peace, KASHISH DAS SHRESTHA