The quiet sounds of Mumbai

Mumbai is a teeming city. People overflow from roadside huts into the street, stray barking dogs add to the fray, lights glare brightly, spilling themselves everywhere. Cars and motorcycles honk boisterously, and it feels like there is no end and no beginning to the city.

That’s why brief pauses between all of this feel like the deepest silence of the world, a silence like no other. When the auto rickshaw’s growling motor takes a breath, the quietness sinks heavily and quickly. The body begins to release its nervous contraction in relief. The lone, distant sound of an old Bollywood song reaches the ears, amplifying the quietness. A child’s happy laugh rises into the air. I feel alone yet surrounded.

Mumbai’s quiet is unique. It lives in its sounds, coming out only when they are there. A complete silence would be eerie, uncomfortable. Instead, I have come to love the bicycle bell that rings out, the pav-seller announcing his arrival to homes preparing for the next day’s breakfast. And the auto rickshaw’s horn, raucous yet soothing when heard from a distance. There is so little space among people here, and i hear voices discussing in a relaxed manner, their words rising up to my 7th floor window and falling into my living room. I imagine the young guys from the slum next door, sitting lazily on the parked motorcycles, enjoying the open space under the night sky.

It is comforting, this noise that lives in the silence. It is Mumbai, and in an odd way, I love it.


3 Responses to The quiet sounds of Mumbai

  1. Rudresh says:

    this is brilliant!! very well put. poignant. very well observed and written!

  2. Betsy says:

    Dear Archana, I am truly captivated by your picturesque style of writing! I followed this link from one of Cary Tennis’ newsletters. It depends on which prism you are looking through, don’t you think? Things change when you get older and a weariness sets in! I am an Indian who used to live in Mumbai. It is only the writer who can appreciate the richness of the experience even in a place surrounded by chaos and noise and smells! Do I like it? I don’t know..I do get dazzled by clean, uncluttered places abroad, but right now my brain is wired to noise, clutter, smells, and quirkiness!

    • Archana says:

      Hello Betsy,

      Thank you for your wonderful words. I agree, it comes down to what you want to see, and the perspective changes with age and even the day you wake up on sometimes. I stumble upon these oases in Mumbai’s overwhelming clutter and crowd, and it’s fun to write about them. Glad you enjoyed the blog!


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