Life in Mumbai requires an inexhaustible noise tolerance. There’s the incessant roar of auto rickshaw engines and the blare of car horns as drivers push through the impenetrable traffic. It hums and hums from the construction of office towers, apartment buildings and a new subway line. Drumbeats and trumpet melodies sound from wedding celebrations and countless festivals. And it’s all topped off with roaring street vendors and garbage trucks blaring out Bollywood tunes.
When Sumaira Abdulali began campaigning against noise pollution in India’s financial capital two decades ago, friends, acquaintances and even her lawyers insisted it was a stupid thing to do. “People told me it was ridiculous to even try because Indians love noise,” she says. “We are a noisy country.”