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The Sounds of Silence… London, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto vs Mumbai

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Asia can be a sensory cacophony… Mumbai means living with an everyday decibel level that you just come to accept. Even the background sounds that fade from consciousness are ever present – crows, pigeons, hawkers, traffic, construction, music or TVs blaring, animated conversations at all hours…  there is always something day or night.

Average noise levels of our city are at least triple that of your normal North American city. Throw in a festival or two and you can see decibel levels of 140 and above (let’s just say that far worse than jumbo jets taking off!)

If in doubt, check out some of the articles in AcuosticBlok on the Rising Noise Pollution in Mumbai.

Or take a tour with the Sounds of Mumbai for a sampling of our city’s everyday sounds.

Which is what makes our travels so remarkable… my partner and I both are struggling with the silence!


Our first stop in London was straight to a friend’s home, dinner and then a deep sleep in their beautiful home. We were immediately struck by the silence of their backyard with just a few birds calling and the laughter of their kids playing.

Our London host's home

Our London host’s home


Whereas what greeted us on landing in Vancouver was a defeaning silence. We were staying right downtown – typically the noisiest part of most cities. Not so for us!

Our host’s home had sound-proof glass windows so the construction across the street was barely audible until one opened the balcony door. Even their wee dog was quiet 99% of the time – except when someone new entered the room when she declared her primacy over her domain in a few short sharp yaps.

Vancouver apartment

Our Vancouver host’s apartment


Next up was Winnipeg where we could hear the road construction from some 10 blocks away, someone was mowing the grass a few blocks away and it seemed like it was happening in our back yard! Even the light tap of my keyboards seemed terribly loud… each small activity amplified.

Winnipeg home backyard

Winnipeg home backyard


When we landed at my partner’s sisters home… you could already see the sonic ‘desi’ influence as both the radio and TV were on at the same time – one merrily pumping out pop music and the other having the ping pong sounds of the tennis match. Overlaying this was the happy chirp of their two pet budgies.

Happily chirping away in Toronto

Why hello Toronto!

I begin to realise why folks find places like India a sensory overload if you are accustomed to such quiet environs versus the average decible levels found in Mumbai…

And appreciate I’ve definitely become more accustomed to the noisiness of India than the peace and quiet of Canada.

Does anyone else notice how the sounds of places differ?

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  1. Even after only a few weeks a year in China it felt always so strangely quiet when getting back to Finland.Our apartment was surrouned by forests and a lake, just some animals sounds all the time and here and there some car passing by. Here in Germany it is still rather quiet but you got more “background” noise going on but it still pales to Xi’an, the small city of 8Milion inhabitants 😀

    • I can just imagine most places in Finland would be muuuuch quieter than China! And I find amusing how ‘small’ cities in China and India are akin to the population of entire countries. 🙂 Also not surprising the metro Germany has a bit more ambient ‘noise’ however can’t compare to the average in more densely populated parts of China or India.

  2. freebutfun says:

    I remember wondering what was wrong, when I visited my parents in another town. Then I got it: there was no wind. In the town I studied in, there was always at least a small wind making leaves rattle.

    • Amazing how the wind really can HOWL… even the rustle of leaves is ever present in many places. In Mumbai, anything like that simply doesn’t register as it is drowned out by all the other ambient city sounds.

  3. Oh gosh, yes! The first time I really noticed constant noise was in BKK. We were staying at a school where a friend was living and except for 23 minutes sometime around 3:48am, the noise was perpetual. In a small Thai village, it took a month to get over morning rooster rage. !!
    I’m fickle with noise. I grew up with the radio or music on constantly and have lived in homes along ambulance/fire truck alley in Edmonton and Calgary. But other times, I love deafening quiet.

    • Hehehe! Yes that’s the thing that folks rarely realise that the ambient noise in places like Mumbai doesn’t stop even at 3 am… Heck we have traffic jams in parts at that time!!

      I also grew up with the radio on… softly… as anything more would be.. ahem… unmannerly! 😉

      • True! My parents live next to a freeway and I never noticed how loud it was growing up. Well, of course, traffic has increased dramatically. Now you have to almost speak up when we’re in the backyard during rush hour. The traffic picks up again at night with the crotch rocket kids and there’s always a pulse of some sort.

        Ha ha! I love that you were so mannerly as a youngster. The radio was a bit of a forbidden fruit especially in the 80s when a few particularly, um, scandalous songs were making the rounds. Well, I guess they make the rounds now too but I wouldn’t know as I now prefer adult contemporary. ;P

        • 80s late night CBC radio was the best! I’d stay up crazy late and record snatches to compile tapes for my music buddy in the UK – we did a decade of music swapping! However by then I’d elected to crash in a room in the basement so my nocturnal musical activities didn’t disturb others. Yeah… once upon a time I was a polite considerate Canadian. 😉

          • Ha ha! Yes, “polite, considerate Canadians” are also, unfortunately, easily influenced. That’s so cool that you swaped tapes for a *decade*! Wow. Very impressive. It was great back then to *not* have easy access to so much, including music. One of my jobs after uni was editing and I spent hours locked in an office listened to the morning commute in Joburg and then switched to Kiss FM out of London when the first station was no longer available. Those were the days of early online listening to radio and it was mindblowing!

            • I think the tapes and letters alas were disposed of years ago… but it was really quite a fabulous exchange.

              It actually prompted me to try and write a series of posts “Music Musings” https://everydayasia.com/2013/09/28/welcome-to-music-musings-rajs-ghost/

              We are still friends though don’t connect as frequently. However I have another musician friend from France I met in 1987 who – in the online world – decided to send music links every month or so even today… that’s nearly 30 years of “Hey thought you would enjoy…” How fabulous is that?

              I can just imagine the early online days were something… Sounds like a great accompaniment to editing!

            • There’s something about a cassette tape that never matched the thrill of a burned cd or an mp3 mix. I don’t know. Is it nostalgia or something else? I still have a box of cassettes and I can’t seem to get rid of them. And of course, there’s a slew of mixtapes in there. 😀

              I’ll check out your post! I’ve been thinking of doing a music related post too. Hitoshi and I actually met over music. I’m a huge fan of house and Hitoshi has been casually djing for himself and others including making his own tracks for 20+ years. He still goes out to dig for records and he’s got our little one in training to accompany him.

            • Couldn’t agree more! Mixed tapes had a certain quality… especially as could also do a little voice commentary easily too… sorta like your own personalised radio program for someone.

              I’ve also been thinking of reviving my ‘Music Musings’… really just stories about connects with different musicians and musical experiences. We know scads of very talented folks here in India and many countries. I even have a bunch of half posts in my drafts folder… Which as they were started a year+ ago means they will show up as ‘published’ then too!?

              Super cool about music being a connector for you and Hitoshi. Similar for my partner and I – turns out we now only know a lot of musicians in common, were at many of the same gigs but were ‘local hosts’ for a fabulous jazz trio without even knowing each other – I had the day ‘shift’ and he had the ‘evening’! 😉

              Hitoshi should try DJing for more than just himself too! Seriously! Why not?

  4. Nijntje says:

    Quietness is the strangest thing when you’ve gone through months of noise. Since I’ve moved to Bombay, it seems too quiet in the Netherlands, no matter if I’m in Utrecht or the village where my parents live. It’s so bad that my ears start to make sound on their own, which would last for almost a week.

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