Kolkata Soundscapes

Conversation with Manas Pal

Where are you from?

Manas Pal: Howrah.

Where in Howrah?

Manas Pal: Shyampur Thana

Interviewer: For how many years have you been staying here?

Manas Pal: It’s been two years.

So, how do you like the city?

Manas Pal: Good. Of course, being a Bengali Kolkata is my favorite.

Do you prefer Kolkata to your hometown?

Manas Pal: Yes, I come from a village, so city is a better place to live in.


Manas Pal: You get all types of facilities here.

But people do say that the city is a tough place, with everyone screaming and there’s too much noise. Villages and suburban regions are comparatively quiet and much different.

Manas Pal: Yes there are noises but you have to accept them if you have to continue working. So I have accepted these things.

What type of noises could you hear in your village?

Manas Pal: Villages do not have any noise as such …it’s pretty quiet there.

So, what do you prefer: the quiet of the village or the noise of the city?

Manas Pal: It depends on the time and situation. Sometimes I like the peace and quiet sometimes the noises are comforting.

People do work in the villages which must emit various sounds?

Manas Pal: No, the sort of work that is done in villages is not noisy. Like here the things are being kept, hence different sounds are made. But in the villages the basic work is agriculture based.

Are the noises in the city only that of machines?

Manas Pal: Yes. Machines create the most amounts of noises.

Are there any particular sound that is heard both in villages and Kolkata?

Manas Pal: The howl of a fox is heard at times.

(Surprised) howl of what? Are there foxes in Kolkata? Where?

Manas Pal: Yes foxes. We can hear them around here (Salt Lake) at night. When I’m in my room near the GC block, there you can hear them at night.

 So there are not many differences between these two places?

 Manas Pal: No, of course there are many differences. There are not many cars and other vehicles around the village. Also my house is far from the main road. But people who live near the main road can hear the sounds of vehicles.

IMost of the machines you work with create too much noise. Don’t you feel tired or disturbed by them? You were not used to so much noise while in the village.

Manas Pal: When I first came to Kolkata I did face problems, but now I’m used to them. There are the noises of the machines, people talking over the cell phone, yet the noise level is not too high that makes you want to stop working and take a break.

During the holidays when you go back home, do you miss the sounds of the city?

Manas Pal: No, I never felt like that. I go home, spend time with my family and return when the time comes.

Is there any particular sound that you like around the city? A sound that is not found in the village.

Manas Pal: No there is no such sound that I like or have felt so passionate about that I need it around myself. Maybe others might like particular sounds but I don’t have such preferences.

 Do you listen to songs?

Manas Pal: Yes I do hear them on the television.

Only on the television? Not on radios or your mobile?

Manas Pal: We don’t get time to listen to music. Most of our time is spend working.

While working you don’t play songs?

Manas Pal: No then accidents will occur. (Pointing at a guy working with a hammer) If that guy listens to songs while working, he will probably hurt himself with that hammer. So that is not possible.

But there were times when people used to sing songs together while working. There were those types of work.

Manas Pal: Yes songs were sung but listening to music is different. While singing we do that through our mouth, thus our ears and eyes are alert so there are less chances of accidents, but when we listen to songs then accidents will happen. For instance if someone drops something and the music is playing we won’t be able to hear the thing dropping.

Is there anyone among you who sings while working?

Manas Pal: Many of us sing to ourselves while working. Maximum people do that.

There is this habit of people who sing this particular tune while pushing heavy things…

Manas Pal: (Interrupting the interviewer) Yes, that is true but in our field of work we don’t do that. It’s the company         who do that while working.

You people don’t know how to do it or know of any particular word or tune that are sung?

Manas Pal: No, no. Mostly because we don’t do the type of work they do, and we don’t have to lift heavy things. They do that and know different tunes and we have heard them singing.  We smile when they do that.

They lift those (pointing at few heavy materials) machines?

Manas Pal: Not those particularly, but there are other materials they push and lift. It’s like they get some extra power and energy from those tunes, all of them lending their voice to it.

 What do you generally watch on television? Do you only listen to songs?

Manas Pal: I listen to songs and watch other programs as well. We get most of the channels back at home so whatever is on we generally watch it.

 Are there any other forms of entertainment, like fairs or any place you can visit in the village?

Manas Pal: Yes fairs are always on, even two of them were already held few days back. We have ‘Rather Mela’ like the ones in Kolkata.

Do you find them similar?

Manas Pal: Yes, more or less.

 Have you ever stayed in Kolkata during Pujo?

Manas Pal: Yes.

So, you don’t return home during pujo?

Manas Pal: No I return home and bring back the family to show them around.

Any favorite pujo that you make it a point to visit?

Manas Pal: See every pujo is special. But the one where you can participate, does not matter if it’s big or small, is the one where you have most fun. So for me that particular pujo is special, because I can contribute to it. Even if I do insignificant work like getting tulsi leaves or banana leaves or some other work. Organizing something together with everyone’s participation makes it a fun experience. Like we have Biswakarma pujo which we organize. At the same time we do go pandel hopping where people are fed many delicacies, but it’s not the same thing as organizing a pujo yourself.

Every street has music playing during pujo and the sound level is very high, especially in Kolkata. The same thing happens in the villages?

Manas Pal: Yes even the villages have loud music playing.

 Are there any difference between the two?

Manas Pal: Difference as in the sound level is more in the villages. Kolkata comparatively has less noise.

 Is it because things are more strictly handled in the city?

Manas Pal: Yes.

 What type of sounds do you get in the villages during this time?

Manas Pal: You know sound boxes are placed everywhere as it happens in Kolkata but in case of villages the sound level is high.

 Then drums are played?

Manas Pal: Yes drums are also played. In fact drums are played in Kolkata as well. But the noise comes especially from the mikes. They are pretty loud in the village areas.

 You don’t face problems because of such loud noise?

Manas Pal: Yes we do get disturbed but we can’t protest. If we complain it will just backfire on us. The pujo is only for three days everyone would like to enjoy.

 But in the city you don’t face such problems?

Manas Pal: Exactly. That way the city is better.

 So you are trying to say that compared to other times, during the pujo the noise level in the villages are very high?

Manas Pal: Yes noise level is excessively high. Especially the boys from the union would like to enjoy and have fun during pujo. So we can’t really say anything.

 I guess enjoyment increases tenfold if the surrounding sounds are also high?

Manas Pal: Maybe, we won’t be able to hear the person beside us but still everyone collectively will have fun.

Is there any sound that you relate to the village that you would like to hear in the city? Any particular sound that you miss hearing or would like to hear.

Manas Pal: Nothing like that.

 You can hear so many sounds while working, even when we entered there were these particular sounds. But what happens at night? Does the sound level decrease?

Manas Pal: No if we are given a work we do it instantly, doesn’t matter if it creates too much noise or not. If we leave the work and postpone it for the next morning then we lose out on 12hours of work. Then the metro will inaugurate not in 2014 but 2020. So that is not feasible.

 So if the need arise the work has to be completed?

Manas Pal: Yes. We cannot give too much thought on the noise level.