Calling Out To God (And The Police) In The Dead Of The Night

26/10/2015 8:15 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
DIPTENDU DUTTA via Getty Images
A Indian man protects his ears with his hands as he passes a display of 144 loudspeakers during a Dusshera festival loudspeaker competition in Allahabad on September 25, 2009. Playing loud music has traditionally been a part of local fairs in Allahabad, where owners of the sound system playing loudest are awarded. According to Indian Noise Regulation Rules set in 2000, permissible range for residential zones is 55 decibels. In addition, no permission can be granted by any authority for the use of public address system in the open after 10 p.m. and before 6 a.m. AFP PHOTO/Diptendu DUTTA (Photo credit should read DIPTENDU DUTTA/AFP/Getty Images)

With one hand firmly placed on my temple to press the throbbing vein, I popped a second pill in the bleak hope of numbing the pain in my head. The loudspeaker was still blaring. I peeped out of the window in the hope that the people dancing there would be tired by now. Alas! They were still going strong. The tune of the bhajan was from a popular number that involved a scantily clad woman gyrating to the beat, but the words were from a devotional song.

It is the "sacred" time of the year. And so a vast majority of people are at their religious best, shunning alcohol and meat, going to temples regularly, and holding jagarans. Now I am fine as long as the religious fervour is limited to their personal eating and drinking habits, but it is the night time prayers (on a public address system mind you!) that completely gets my goat. When I say night, I mean right through to the wee hours of the next morning.

"I am a firm believer in God, but I also believe that prayers don't need to reach a certain decibel level for him to hear them."

At 9 in the night, the loud speakers came alive, and refused to die down thereafter. Set to tunes borrowed from "Jalebi Bai" and "Tinku Jiya" to the relatively older "Khaeekey Paan Banaras Wala", bhajan after bhajan belted out from the loudspeaker. A pandal had been put up bang in the middle of the road with bright psychedelic lights and a mother of all loudspeakers. I could see women clad in the brightest and shiniest possible saris dancing (more like jumping) away to the torturously loud beats.

Don't start with the brickbats yet! I am a firm believer in God, but I also believe that prayers don't need to reach a certain decibel level for him to hear them. A silent prayer goes a longer way than the blaring speakers in the middle of the night, but a big chunk of people completely disagree with that line of thought. For them, the louder you are, the happier the Lord, and if it is to the tune of a pulsating movie song -- you've just earned brownie points!

At 1 in the night, when my migraine got worse, I decided to try our good old Haryana Police. So first, I googled for the phone number of the nearby chowki. It wasn't listed so I took down the number of the nearest station. For a few seconds I stared at the number, contemplating whether or not to call. We've all heard stories about sleeping or drunk policemen, right? What if I got shouted at for calling about a ridiculously trivial issue, or worse, what if gaalis were hurled at me? But then it was past midnight, and my only quiet time of the day getting snatched from me was becoming less and less of a trivial issue. I finally dialled and got through. I half expected a sleepy voice to answer the phone (if at all), and then tear me up for disturbing him over such a minor thing. So why did I call? Well, if I ain't sleeping, you ain't either! Anyway, I nearly fell off my chair when I was greeted with a "good evening"! It was like calling a credit card BPO with the only difference being that the Hindi was in a heavy Haryanvi accent! I quickly recovered from the shock and stated my problem.

His response, though very polite, was, "This issue pertains to God. We can't do anything. And anyway, your area doesn't come under this thana."

"So can you give me the relevant thana's number?"

"O ji kya karoge? Bhagwan ka mamla hai (What will you do? The issue involves God."

"We all know that 'religious matters' are best left untouched, yet [the police] tried, in the dead of night, to address the problems of a crazy, middle-aged woman..."

I hung up and almost felt guilty. He made it sound like a case of me versus God. I buried my head under a pillow, trying desperately to catch some sleep. At 2am I gave up. As I sat up and popped another pill for the now worse headache, I wondered if indeed nothing could be done in "matters of God". With sleep elusive and head throbbing, I reached for the phone and called up a few more police stations in the hope that they would have the local chowki's number. A good thing was that every time the phone was picked within a ring or two and a respectful voice answered. But none of them had the number! Finally, one of the guys was nice enough to give me the control room's mobile number.

Before calling, I peeped out of the window yet again to see if the fervour had died down a bit but they were still wildly dancing to a bhajan which sounded like "Jhumka Gira Re". I clenched my teeth and glanced at the clock. It was 3am. I dialled.

After another round of explaining the mudda (issue), the distinctly Haryanvi voice first admonished me for not knowing the local police station's number. An apology was in order. What he said next surprised me more.

"You don't worry. We will send the PCR to check."

Have you ever heard of a police car reaching anywhere on time or reaching at all? Thanks to our movies, the police are seen in a not-so-glorious light. Exactly eight minutes later I heard a pin-drop silence. I rushed to the window and sure enough there it was! A white gypsy with blinking red lights. They apparently told them to lower the volume a bit, which they did -- for precisely 30 seconds after the policemen left. And the eardrum-tearing levels were back.

Although the migraine is still there, I feel good. Not because I succumbed to religious fervour but because our police department actually reacted to my concern which was trivial if you compare it to the crimes described in the first page of the newspaper, or for that matter even the eighth. They not only heard me but tried to help. We all know that "religious matters" are best left untouched, yet they tried, in the dead of night, to address the problems of a crazy, middle-aged woman who just randomly called them in no hope!

"God doesn't need loudspeakers and drum beats... and definitely not to the tune of 'Saadi Gali Aaya Karo'. The only mythological character I remember waking up to drum beats and loud noises was Kumbhkarana."

Coming back to the devout singers, I might be hurting some sentiments here but I find the entire idea ridiculous. I see the very same people duping others, not extending a helping hand and kicking that stray puppy on the road. And yet they sing, confident in their piety. They sing and dance, and feel good about themselves for having held such an opulent ceremony. The same money could have been quietly used to feed some hungry mouths or cover some naked bodies but that would have gone unnoticed in the heavens above. After all, God, according to them, notices only loud displays.

As for the bhajans, it is 3.30am, and they are still singing and dancing in the false hope that the Gods will be forced to bless them. I sincerely doubt that. All it is going to yield is a couple of annoyed neighbours, tired limbs and hoarse throats. Religion is a way of life, not an emotion on display. The simplest path to getting prayers answered is not asking for anything. As long as we are grateful for what we have and as long as we keep our conscience clear, we don't need to sing at unearthly hours to get into Divine good books!

God doesn't need loudspeakers and drum beats. The only mythological character I remember waking up to drum beats and loud noises was Kumbhkarana. God doesn't need noise and definitely not to the tune of "Saadi Gali Aaya Karo".

Originally posted at: Random Thoughts

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