From the moment you wake up, even before you open your eyes, you can hear India all around you.
From the bed where I rest my head, I hear voices from the hallway, loud and foreign. Doors shutting forcefully, and causing the rest of the doors to shake in their frames. People washing themselves. The splash of the water, the sounds of people clearing every orifice to start their daily routines.
On the street, the crowd has only just begun to form. India isn’t a country of early risers, but India is a country of more than 16 billion, so even the “early rising” crowd can account for thousands.
There is a clamor all around. A bustle that comes with the street. People are walking, and shuffling around one another. Some push carts, full of food- vegetables dripping water, popcorn bursting over a fire, and many unidentified fried objects. Others pull carts, loaded with rock or brick or wood.
Every hundred steps or so, you see a dog. Surprisingly, I haven’t heard one sound from a dog, but their eyes tell a story and you know they have seen unimaginable things.
As you come to an intersection, you wonder how there hasn’t been a collision. No one stops until their rickshaw is almost touching the car or cart or motorbike that has crossed in front of them. The intersection is a place where a crash seems inevitable, yet somehow everyone manages to continue on, unscathed.
The horns are so prevalent that before you know it, they become your background noise. The calls of people however, jump to the foreground, as they approach you, inviting you to try this, buy that, or simply give a handout of some sort- chocolate, milk, money…
The temples have a sound all their own. The Sikh temple has live music, blaring rhythmically, enchantingly from the speakers surrounding and inside the building. The Hindu temple is cool, calm, and quiet, with the sounds of the people echoing off the marble floors, walls and ceilings.
As afternoon turns to evening, the bustle dies down again, as India is not a late-night place either. Again, there are still thousands, but in comparison to the hundreds of thousands, this seems tame. As you walk through the market, you are accosted by hundreds of smells all at once, but this is another tale completely…
There is no official end to the day, but once the streets are dark, there is definitely a “quiet” that comes about. Horns are fewer, as the traffic mostly turns to pedestrians. You return back to the room where you reside, and if you are in the Raj Villa of Paharganj, New Delhi, the sound that will accompany you to your dreams is the sound of the hotel elevator playing Kenny G every time someone steps in to use it…
This is India.