Survival of the Shrillest

Sometimes, there is nothing harmonic about the harmonic oscillations of sound.

An automobile makes its presence felt on a peaceful Sunday. The road is rather empty, sans undesirable presence of man or animal. Yet, the intelligent charioteer chooses, wilfully, to disgrace the tranquil air with his mechanical hollering. One whirls around and feels an envelope of disappointment and vexation. The ‘automobile’ is somewhat of an antithesis. It is a motorcycle fitted with a pick-up truck’s mouth organ. Seemingly, this rat-lion found sound power as a desirable way of attracting (un)desirable attention.

To deflect the revolting mind, one retires to the quieter confines of one’s home; switches on the blare-box and is immediately greeted with a series of telecom advertisements. One ad extols the mobile handset’s exceptionally high-decibel speakers, which evidently, impresses a herd of noise connoisseurs. The other ad features a classroom full of sprightly young lads and ladies, frolicking in a desk-pounding, spot-jumping, hand-clapping, back-thumping, front-pumping noise orgy. The louder, the merrier, is the motto of this group. One realizes belatedly that decibels were potent weaponry in displaying camaraderie. Genuineness, it seems, is directly proportional to ascending intensity on the sound scale.

Unable to share the ad’s ode to noise, one takes a walk. The eyes rest on a temptingly elegant park, dangling the carrot of some much-desired quietude. One doesn’t expect the resident stray dogs’ welcome song, though. A pack, one short of a cricket team playing XI, howls menacingly. Disadvantaged by the lack of a common language of communication and an inability to howl competently, one assumes this is the animal’s way of expressing displeasure at the arrival of human company. Sunday stillness apparently isn’t an aspiration confined to the human domain. A few awkward moments later, spent unsuccessfully in conveying to the animal the concept of peaceful co-existence, one is forced to look for quieter pastures. As man heads for the exit, the dogs again exercise their vocal chords in unison; for a victory celebration.

As the day wears on, one is pummelled into submission, thoroughly devoured by sound poisoning. One’s ears can only take so much. Tranquillity is eventually discovered in slumberland…

Noise, and not wealth, will be the new barometer of social standing in the coming time. In this epic battle of the survival of the shrillest, the Quiets are expected to die a quiet death (or at least, spend a bulk of their idle time snoozing). Societal recognition would be a direct function of decibel-ownership. The ‘rich’ would figure highly in ‘dB-500’ rankings. People, as usual, would quickly adapt to this seismic shift. Mobile phones, locomotive horns, overzealous human horns, advertisements, public announcement systems, religious processions, speeches (political and other slightly less dubious variants); would all get progressively louder, stretching the limits of man’s audible tolerance. TV would revel in insensibly exasperating the sensible. The centuries-old man-dog howling dispute would reach a point where dogs would eventually take to howling solely in the ultrasound range, granting relief to humans but creating fresh competition for half-blind bats, already battling in the ultrasound.

A lack of endowment in loudness could become a crippling disadvantage, hampering one’s social and professional progress. The former might be witnessed in social networking sites, where an inability to pictorially convey the appearance of a buoyant life might be the cause of rapid deletions from friend lists. The latter would be linked to the art of convincing others as to one’s significant professional contributions, conveyed through an overwork of one’s vocal chords. The vocal chords, and not the brain, would come to be the most valuable part of the anatomy.

The discerning reader would recognise that the above ‘prognostications’ are a sordid summary of the present.

The future is likely to be worse.


‘Been There, Done That’

Some statements have a remarkable ability of benumbing the brain with their odiousness. I have been secretly carrying out an empirical search with the objective of identifying the most repugnant of clichés. The investigation is expected to continue till the end of time or me, whichever is earlier, but I’ll spill the beans by declaring a provisional winner…by a huge margin.

Been there, done that.

(Henceforth, used interchangeably with ‘The Hearing’)

One of the most horrendously malignant, hopelessly overused, and unbearably nauseating of the clichés that I have been subjected to over the decades; in my humble and (mostly useless) opinion.

The Hearing is commonplace in a congregation of Intelligentsia – who through various weighted combinations of dogged determination, ancestral bequests and doses of good fortune – have done a commendable job (truly) of transferring Papers of Value in one direction, from others unto themselves.

The scene might be a coffee/beer table with liberal representation of the Intelligentsia. Each takes turn extolling his/her virtues and accomplishments with a hopefully-subtle speech intended at tooting one’s own horn, while simultaneously hoping the others don’t take notice. (Of course, the others don’t notice). Once everyone else in the group dutifully does the same their healthy camaraderie is seen in the concluding line:

‘Oh! Been there, done that.’

The unwelcome utterance of The Hearing is almost always accompanied by a smug one-leg-on-top-of-the-other posture, head thrown back for piercing effect. The unfortunate inclusion of Average Man to this distinguished assemblage triggers a Hearing onslaught. The hapless Average Man rolls his eyes – less in admiration and more out of camouflaged dismay at the misplaced hubris – and hopes to seek asylum in the world of silence.

Any attempts at conversation by Average Man post the Hearing(s) is followed by a voluntary sermon session by the Intelligentsia, with the dual objective of highlighting the futility of Average Man’s endeavours and downplaying their own achievements, ending with a been-there-done-that. All over again. The Hearing serves as an advance warning to Average Man of the impending failure of his attempts at engaging the Intelligentsia’s concentration. Who cares about Average Man anyway?

Another common setting conducive to the Hearing is a conversation with a couple-friend, minus one half of the couple. Friendly banter is frequently interspersed with reminders of the absent partner’s many unknown talents. ‘(S)He has been there, done that…’ The absent partner serves as a wonderful catalyst for The Hearing.

Another instance is when a young human (hapless, of course) finds him/herself in the company of humans more advanced in years. The young human is so bombarded with the Hearing he struggles to keep pace with who’s been where and done what. The complexity is augmented when the young human is heavily outnumbered by the more-advanced-in-years pack. In such instances, the young human is well advised to search for a quick exit (unless they want to hang around for the amusement).

A final instance comes from the wannabe (…no, what an uncouth word.). Well, the sniff-happy drug-addict-hopefuls-who-flunked-the-drug-test group. A few sniffs here, few furtive trials there and this group carries with it a fine sense of achievement. Of having ‘been there, done that’. Amen.

Been where, done what?

Mental torture by clichés is beyond culpability. Should the law change in the future, The Hearing could make the cut. The Hearing is noxious when used as a medium for conveying hubris, indulgent self-gloating and as an unwanted ingredient in social banter. Admittedly, The Hearing is often used with harmless intentions. However, those occasions would be too drab to write about.

But all is not lost. The Hearing serves as a worthy subject for dark humour. On most occasions, rather than stressing a sense of purported achievements and sagacity, The Hearing amusingly highlights the delusion content of the speaker’s utterances. Delusion is one of humour’s best pals. All is forgiven.


Do I hear been there, seen/done that from you, my dear Reader, after reading the above?

You have company.