SILENCE OF THE CLAMS

We are back home now after 18 months in India.  Packing and prep for this migration explains the lack of timely posts.  In many ways life there and here isquite similar.  But in others, it is worlds apart.  For example, it’s quiet here, outside of Boston.  Reaallly quiet.  That’s the first thing I noticed.

There are no beeping car horns sounded by drivers as they navigate by sonar or warn the cars around them of their presence.  There is no constant drone of thousands of diesel engines, idling in slow traffic.  There are no lowing urban cattle, clattering herds of goats, or the bells of camel harnesses.  The junk man (who has a foghorn voice) isn’t calling out to say he’s collecting discards on his creaky push-cart.  There is  no fleet of buzzing autorickshaws or three-wheeled minitrucks with tiny lawnmower size engines, laboring to haul their passengers or cargo around.  There is no swarm of putting two wheelers, flowing in and around the other traffic, filling all available space (sidewalks, lane markings, or opposing traffic patterns be damned.) There are no water-delivery tankers squealing their way up the street to keep the building supplied.  The world’s oldest contingent of lovingly maintained ancient bicycles is not creaking its way past our home.

There are no security guards tweeting their own whistles to stop cars or open gates.  There is no maid and mistress upstairs, arguing  incessantly and unintelligibly in their daily routine.  There is no symphony of venting pressure cooker whistles, as the entire building prepares its daily food in the cooler early morning hours.  The pre-monsoon wind is not moaning through what gaps it can find in the our windows, rattling the glass or shrieking behind the flapping curtains.

There is no bagpipe-enabled marching band rehearsing in a nearby field, or no fitness assessment tests directed by loudspeaker in the same arena. There are no wedding venues with nightly fireworks blasting music and incendiaries until 11:00pm, nor DJs at open air dance clubs playing top-volume music at night; and no tipsy patrons wandering back to their cars, smashing bottles and singing after the clubs and venues close.

There is no construction – no hammering from two apartments up, nor jackhammers attacking crumbling walls on the next block.  There are no gangs of pick-axe wielding laborers hauling baskets of earth around as they attempt rush road repairs before the rains come.

And there is no pack of pre-teen boys playing tag in the halls and elevators, nor feral dogs snarling and fighting over scraps dragged out of trash piles.

All I hear here in Arlington is birdsong, a few raindrops, the low hum of a car a couple of blocks away, and the tiny chirp of a passer-by’s cell phone.

It’s quiet.

6 responses

  1. Brilliant depiction of the soundscape–it has the detail that creates another world, the type of detail many fantasy writers lack when trying to evoke the exotic. Of course, your exotic world is modern,retaining many of the classic ancient sounds, with the modern on top of them! Welcome home!

  2. Elaine Cochrane | Reply

    Love the description, particularly the navigating by sonar. I’d say welcome back, but geographically you’ve moved further from where I am – but welcome back to reliable internet.

  3. Welcome back! I’ll stop complaining about the World Cup-inspired fireworks in Rosi. (Also the 88-and-humid weather we’ve been having lately.)

  4. And in some ways you miss the noise. I bet it was hard to sleep those first few nights.

    1. Yes, I do. There was an energy of the streets, a vibrancy I hadn’t experienced before.

  5. Evelynne Kermer | Reply

    Very beautiful and descriptive, but perhaps you should have given the peacocks a mention too!! Evelynne and Tom

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