Of the many forms of pollution that we need to endure in big city India, noise is the one that gets the least attention. Having lived within the loud chaotic confines of Mumbai for nearly a decade, I sort of grew immune to the unending barrage of sonic waves over time. But a couple of months of complete shutdown of life in maximum city not only showed us that Mumbai was still capable of spectacular evening skies, it also opened our ears to how wonderful silence can be.
With life now back to normal, I’ve become acutely aware of how much I miss the peace. The culprits are plenty, ranging from loudspeakers to some kids (with incredibly colourful linguistic skills) who regularly play cricket in the street below. But the two worst offenders by a big margin are horns and loud motorcycle/ rickshaw exhausts.
The horn is a viral disease in its own right in India, and one that’s going to take a lot more than a vaccine to fix. Ideally, the simple virtues of patience and consideration for fellow beings would be enough, but apparently that’s too much to ask. I’m not sure how the authorities can take this on, or if they even intend to at all. Perhaps serious change will only be possible when these things can be accurately monitored as our vehicles inevitably get more intelligent and better connected.
Loud exhausts are a different matter and it’s something international regulations are working hard to control. Studies have proven a link between long term exposure to traffic noise and stress, anxiety and even cardiovascular diseases. It’s why the Euro 5 emissions norms (and generally all upcoming one) focus on not just on tailpipe emissions, but noise as well.
I recently rode two motorcycles that got me thinking about this idea for my column this month. The first was an old Rajdoot GTS 175, affectionately nicknamed the Bobby. For such a cute little thing, this nearly 50-year-old two-stroker coughed out an exceptional amount of smoke and noise. We all think back fondly to the days of the good ol’ two-strokes and there’s always a smile generated when a tightly tuned RX rides by. But at the same time, it’s a relief that our roads aren’t packed with millions of bikes that are this loud and messy.
The second bike was the Kawasaki Z900 with a full-system Akrapovic exhaust that was just way too loud for anywhere but the racetrack. I love a sweet sounding bike, but such loud pipes on the road are just selfish. Not everyone in a two-mile radius thinks that your screaming superbike is cool, and in most cases, you’ll just upset and startle people with it. And the more people you upset, the more negative the general attitude towards bikers becomes.
The public road is for everyone. With big bikes especially, the responsibility is on us to be courteous of the people we overtake and the inhabited areas that we ride through. Live and let live.