Silence is not golden


So, no huge surprise, Amritsar is cold in winter. But I didn’t think it would be this damp. Everything is wet, and a thick fog pervades the city. And then there is the competing (from several sources at once), extremely loud, thumping music everywhere. This is the polar opposite of Japan, where Ken and I last were together. There, we were a bit weirded out by how silent it always was, even in large groups of people. But here, the opposite it true, there is loud noise of all kinds coming from every corner, and I think it says something interesting about the two cultures. In Japan, it seems that the silence is about a longing for order and simplicity in a crowded culture. Whereas here, I think that people are discomfited and disturbed by quiet. I think it makes them feel cut off, lonely, adrift and unmoored to the world, to the community, to the family.

To give you just a small taste of what we hear non-stop here:

Because the fog is so thick, Ken and I are waiting to go to the Golden Temple until a little later, we were told that it should lift by noon. We did take a short walk around this morning, and I could see from Ken’s face that he is a little shell-shocked by the experience of being here, so I am trying to be supportive. One of the great things about having been in India for so many months 7 years ago is that I am more or less prepared for how different things are here from the US, and I warned Ken that this was going to be a bit of a shocking experience for him, which it is. I just hope he doesn’t crack up before leaving the country a week from now.


Street lifeVida de calle


One of the things I have noticed here in Mexico City, usually beginning at about 8am, it the profusion of controlled yelling, whistling, long tones and other sounds emanating from various service vendors patrolling the neighborhoods. At first these sounded like nothing other than a twisted set of cris de coeur designed for no other purpose than to annoy me. Upon further investigation, it has become obvious that these are vital sales professionals, providing to-your-door services that have long since disappeared from wealthier countries due to higher labor costs. (Think of the milkman of old, or the profession of peddler, for example.)

Although each service provider seems to put their own jovial spin on noise making, with time I have been able to discern some distinctions:

1. The traveling knife sharpeners almost always use a plastic whistle.

2. The garbage collectors use a somewhat low pitched wail when shouting out “Basuuuuuuuuuuuraaaaahhhh“.

3. Competition is most intense among the water sellers. They will usually start with the brand name of their water (said rapidly), followed by a throaty and somewhat higher pitched “Aguuuuuuaaaaaaaaaa!”Entre otras cosas, he notado que en el DF hay mucho ruido en la calle desde las 8 de la mañana. Hay gritos y silbidos muy agudos. Al principio pensé que ese ruido existía solo para torturarme. Más tarde, vine a entender que hay gente que vende cosas y servicios en la calle, y cada uno tiene su propio sonido. Despues de estudiar un poco, he notado algunos sonidos distintos:

1. El afilador de cuchillos utiliza un silbato de plástico.

2. Los colectores de la basura gritan un poco bajo y profundo como “Basuuuuuuuuuuuuurrrrraaaaaaaaaahhhhh!”

3. La rivalidad es lo mas intenso entre los vendedores de agua. Normalmente empiezan con la marca, seguido con un tono más arriba…”Agggguuuuuuuaaaaaaaaaaa!!”