Saturday, July 08, 2006

Open Window (not yet closed!)

a soft madness gets under the hair on my scalp. i itch. i scratch. harder. when there's some relief, the madness burrows through and invades my mind. its a soft sound my nails make on my scalp compared to the madness of the sound outside my open window. that is a conglomeration, even a conflagration of sounds, a compendium too.

how does one relate in words sounds that one can only feel? the sounds of traffic at a really busy crossroads with a bazar, railway station, a bus stand, packed residences cheek by jowl, and commercial establishments encircling it? could i perhaps, in some way cover the city with a reflecting dome that will bounce the sound back to us? send the smoke and pollution back to us? and the smells?

the dull roar of diesel engines straining to power their overburdened chassis... the whining of stressed gearshifts... manic horn blowers in the octaves from cacophony to richter-scale-wrecking craziness... the sharp popping of 2-stroke auto rickshaw engines... arguments that the drivers of these pests have with their disgruntled passengers... the enthusiastic chanting of 'bolo hari, hari bol' by "shawshan bondhu" as they carry a corpse to the ever-burning pyres of keoratala for its transit to the cycle of rebirth... hysterically barking dogs maddened at the intrusion of an unfamiliar smell... the frenetic whingeing of police sirens, frantic ambulances... the sounds of life unable to hesitate, painstakingly moving on.

and the smells that drift in through the window. unburnt motor fuels, freshly rained-on earth some miles away, the noisome garbage truck labouring past, covered by plastic, under which wisps and fragments of everybody's leavings reject recycling, littering the street. fish frying, smoke wafting up from a cigarette being puffed below. a whiff of synthetic sandalwood from the incense lit in a creeping taxi. the smell of decay and devoutness. the odour of contemptuous familiarity giving way to the scent of the unknown.


and i'm trying to listen to my music over all this. music played loud enough to disturb the inmates in my home. something they can object to since they cannot do the same outside the windows. headphones become necessary but irritating. the sounds outside not only filter in, they actually override the music quite easily.

"look what they've done to my song, ma.../ it's the only thing i could do half right / and it's turning out all wrong, ma / look what they've done to my song. / Look what they've done to my brain, ma.../ well, they've picked it out like a chicken bone / till i think i'm half insane, ma / look what they've done to my song. / wish i could find a good book to live in.../ well, if i could find a really good book / i'd never have to come out and look at / what they've done to my song." melanie from the 70s sounds so appropriate.

as does jim capaldi doing 'eve', billy preston telling me 'that's the way god planned it' and that '(he) wrote a simple song'. leon russell wandering as a 'stranger in a strange land', and then him and joe cocker 'cry(ing) me a river'. until the blistering guitars of zappa, roy buchanan, duane allman, alvin lee and to round it off, jimi, douse the noise completely. i can now sleep.

if only the sodium-vapour street lamp wasn't so intrusive between the fluttering drapes...

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