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The Financial Express

Hawkers' bullhorn --- sheer noise pollution


Hawkers' bullhorn --- sheer noise pollution

Amazingly, the Dhaka residents nowadays wake up in the morning to the vendors' loud hawking coming through bullhorns (hand-held mikes). To the people not aware of the trend, the technique may appear strange --- and, considering the time being early morning, atrocious too. In the distant past, mornings in Dhaka, a busy city, used to welcome the residents of the city with the chirping of birds. Those were slowly replaced by the different types of sounds coming from automobiles. Since the corona lockdown in 2020, the whole scenario has changed radically. With road movement prohibited in the city to ensure social distance, hawkers and vendors seized the opportunity. These people selling varieties of products were seen coming out to trade in their merchandise stealthily.

After nearly a month, with the lockdown slackening, the hawkers began entering localities on pedalled vans and pushcarts. To the surprise of the peaceful neighbourhood people, almost all the vendors were carrying hand-held mikes --- in order to attract the possible buyers' notice. The people, especially the womenfolk, welcomed the itinerant vendors. 

That was the beginning. Since that time of the early corona pandemic, the streets in the middle-class areas in the city have been dominated by the bullhorn-wielding hawkers. In the beginning they maintained a discreet manner, but with their demand and popularity increasing, the roaming vendors became more dominant as days wore on. It was because the womenfolk veritably welcomed the hawkers. The reason was that instead of going to the nearby kuchcha bazaar, they could shop in front of their residences. The hawkers' deafening voice coming through the bullhorn emerged as a dreadful nuisance to many people. More than a year after the withdrawal of the lockdown, the mobile hawkers are still there, the varieties of their products increasing manifold. Apart from vegetables and groceries, the hawkers bring fish, live chicken etc to the people's door. In the early period of the pandemic lockdown, they were seen selling rice, flour, beef & mutton to the people confined to their homes.

Nowadays, the bullhorn-blaring vendors continue to display and sell clothing items. And even herbal medicines. Some of them shout from early in the morning for old household items like rejected electronic goods in exchange for money. The newcomers using bullhorns appear to be replacing the old-time hawkers, who had been engaged in the trade since long.

Whatever may be the case, the mobile hawkers have earned a lot of infamy for their bullhorns. The bullhorns' piercing sound as the hawkers shout out while moving along a street leaves a deleterious impact on the heart and nerve of patients. Moreover, the hand-held mikes' sound detracts from the students' studies. Silence and endurable sound cannot go with noise pollution. The professional vendors' hawking sound could also be sweet and mesmerising. The skilled hawkers do not require a mike. Their plaintive sweet style of calling out and the voice modulation is enough to attract the prospective customers. Such hawkers used to people the Dhaka streets sixty-seventy years ago. In place of today's battery-driven hand-held small mikes, those hawkers would use the tin-made archaic bullhorns. The elderly people who heard the hawkers shout the words 'kulfi malai' on a high summer noon are still haunted by the sing-song voice. The hawkers' technique of attracting clients varies. Some vendors still retain the tradition of the rhythmic sound of home-made jhunjhuni. But those sweet sounds are fast being buried under the cacophonous and revolting noise pollution.

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