Make religion, not noise

On Sunday morning (February 16th, 2014), I was rudely woken up at 5.15 am by a group of people who were making religion* loudly outside my apartment block. I’d heard this cacophony before and had dismissed it, assuming incorrectly on two separate occasions that it was a funeral procession and a Jain family taking sanyas.

Even though the religion was happening loudly on both occasions, I thought this was an aberration that can’t be outraged over because these were one-time events. However, what took place on Sunday changed all that.

At 5.15 am, about 15 people, armed with a dholak and a tambourine began singing and chanting loudly on the National Games Village main road in Bengaluru. They did this four times as they walked around the entire block. No speakers were used, but when they were doing what they did so early in the morning, speakers weren’t necessary.

I walked out of my house, waited for them to finish and approached them politely, inquiring about why they did this. One person explained to me that this was being done to purify the atmosphere and to pray for the environment.

Noble intentions, terrible execution.

I then asked these people whether they had taken permission for this activity, since this was being conducted in the wee hours of the morning and (though I didn’t say this explicitly) was excruciatingly loud. A few of the individuals started giving me angry looks and began walking away, while one gentleman answered my queries politely, calling me ‘brother.’ I am grateful to him for his patience and for engaging me in conversation to explain his stance.

Other people were not so kind, asking me questions like “What religion are you?“ “Are you from the India? You don’t have any culture?” and so on. The patient gentleman said that they do this once a month and that they will seek police permission and get it easily.

It is quite likely that nobody has ever questioned them before when they were making religion because of the diffusion of responsibility effect. While it is clearly not somebody else’s problem, it has been made so due to the limited frequency of occurrence.

However, sleep and peace of mind as a basic human need trumps making religion loudly.

It is here that I must quote (from a FB status shared by my B-school professor Reuben Abraham) these words by John Stuart Mill –

“If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind. Were an opinion a personal possession of no value except to the owner; if to be obstructed in the enjoyment of it were simply a private injury, it would make some difference whether the injury was inflicted only on a few persons or on many.

But the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.”

One must not ignore contrarian opinions either because they might be right or when wrong can further reinforce the original stance.

In light of this, Dear Reader, I had to ask you a few questions:

  • Have you faced similar problems that disrupt sleep at odd times and have you done anything about it?
  • Is there any legal recourse that can be adopted to dissuade these individuals from making religion loudly so as not to disturb the peace?

Please note that the reason I am asking these questions is to ensure that we are aware of our rights in our respective neighbourhoods and to see how we can collectively arrive at a situation where we are as respectful of people’s needs to make religion as they are of our need for peaceful sleep.

*Making religion / religion happened is an Aadisht Khanna coinage. My wife and I, despite the limited sample size are of the unanimous opinion that Aadisht is one of the best house guests we’ve had. On one occasion, I checked with him if he had slept well and his response was, “Yes da, for the most part. Then religion happened loudly and I wasn’t able to go back to sleep.”

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