what's a little noise among good neighbors?

My mornings are filled with strong emotions. Across the street the new tenants have four dogs. For a long time one lone mongrel ruled our street, but she has lost her territorial instinct and allowed two males to move in. The train of morning walkers who bring their dogs along begins at five, and is running even when I climb into my car some minutes past seven. The four dogs across the street, the three strays in the street, and two of my three dogs, and the unending line of intruders, all tell all others in the loudest meanest terms that they'll shred everybody else, while my third dog, a Siberian Husky, howls from inside the house.

Such are my mornings after nights that have forgotten silence for some months now. The American next to the house behind mine warms to the night at nine and shakes things up with his rumbling voice and sudden guffaws until after midnight—on weekends his energy lasts until after three. He has Indian guests sometimes, and their voices are neutered against his, and I hear their soft-spoken jokes which precede the thunder that issues from him and jolts me in my bed. Finally, when he decides to sleep, his air conditioner modestly takes his place, whose exhaust is not on the terrace but on the ledge, and it thinks out loud for what remains of the night.

The doctor next door on our right has returned after her yearly half-year in England and found that the house on her right is now fully built, and in her absence the air conditioners of that house have all been installed such as to expend themselves into her bedroom, and they run all day and all night, and when the main power shuts down the generator comes on and joins the din. She spoke to the European tenants and they asked her to speak to the owner, whom she traced to Australia, and told her she cannot sleep on account of all the noise from her house. The owner asked the doctor to go see a sleep therapist, because “I have consulted the best architect in Bangalore.”

To overcome her outrage the doctor has commenced alterations to her own home which goes on even on weekends, commencing at six in the morning and lasting until as long as the men last. They drill concrete slabs in front of the house and metal things at the back and hammer something in between—and there is only sound, and nothing is rising, so is she building an underground shelter against others’ noises? Sujaya called her and told her she should stop work at least Sunday afternoons. The good lady stopped, but she told Sujaya what she has long wanted to say: “Remember when you built your house? When my sister wasn't well and your contractor worked into the night all the same?”

Sujaya was silent to that, she told me. And she and I were silent together for a good while afterward.