In my very, very young and idiotic days I would creep up behind sleeping cats for the express purpose of saying “hiss” and scaring them out of their fur. It never worked. Normally, they would hear me at 50 yards range and would walk away calmly with their supercilious attitude intact and with their tails [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

I can’t hear myself saying hiss to a cat now!


In my very, very young and idiotic days I would creep up behind sleeping cats for the express purpose of saying “hiss” and scaring them out of their fur. It never worked. Normally, they would hear me at 50 yards range and would walk away calmly with their supercilious attitude intact and with their tails still at full mast.

Cats always had a head start on us kids.

My three younger sisters would remember my activities in this particular field of scientific research.
Sri Lanka was very quiet sound-wise then. One could hear birds singing and even hear Geckos making their disapproving “chack chack” noises. You could even hear a coconut deciding not to fall off a tree!

Having returned to the good Old Republic after a lapse of what seemed to be too long a time, (opinions do differ on this in our household), I was delighted to find out that this activity, that of scaring cats, is now possible and with good dividends!
There is so much background noise now that cats don’t hear you creeping up on them.

Kisses and hisses
As soon as I got back home and having both-cheeks-kissed by the gathered throng, I spotted a white,ultra-lazy, furry cat stretched and lounging on the upper edge of the sofa.
I was still high on in-flight free drinks and I crept up quietly to within 10cms of the feline ear and uttered a sibilant “Hisssss!” with a follow through of a two-fingers-in-the-mouth whistle.
We, the cat and I, had not even been introduced.
There was a sharp“Meeeaworrr” and a blur of white streaking upwards and in the general direction of my sister’s new curtains. There was then the sound of“the rendering of the curtain” followed by a thud of combined cat and curtain falling to earth.
Needless to say, the curtain was ruined. The cat went AWOL until dinner time and even then, they had to open a can of tinned fish to lure her back into the house.

Being the Prodigal Elder Brother, my return and my behaviour towards Cat-kind was tolerated by my sisters although there were murmurs of “Uncle is mad” in the background.
Noise overload
The problem in our household is Noise Pollution! The cat didn’t hear me approach! Nobody understood the scientific aspect of this experiment!

There was a TV in the background going at full blast with some Sari-ed simpering middle-aged female advocating some vile milk powder stuff, or it could have been Plaster of Paris. Nobody was paying any attention to it.
Then there were a few I pod type devices producing alien sounds. These belonged to various nieces and nephews that I hadn’t seen before. At least I think they were relatives because they all called me “Uncle”.

The household being predominantly female there is always a lot of foreground noise, naturally.
The school band of the school next door incessantly plays a discordant version of “When the Saints Go Marching In” on toneless Melodicas accompanied by the beating of what sounds like empty oil drums.

Beethoven and Mohideen Baig
In the middle ground there is traffic noise and local bread sellers in vans play a synthetic version of Beethoven’s“Für Elise” repeatedly. They probably have no idea who Beethoven was and who Elise was and do not care anyway.
In the far distance, a local temple blares out devotional songs by the late Mohideen Baig and from a faraway Mosque comes the sound of……Oh, Never mind.
There is a general desire to fight fire with fire or in this case, Noise with Noise.I decided against that and decided to pretend to be deaf when it suited me, like in the following scenario.
My favourite niece Sam (35+ years, 10 decibel mouth): Uncle! Uncle! I want to go shopping with you! Didya hear me Uncle?
Self (fortissimo): What? I can’t hear
Sam (shouting): Shopping, Uncle! Shopping! With me! Your favourite niece!
Self: WHAT?
Sam (shouting): Are you deaf Uncle?
Self: Come closer, Darling! I can’t hear you!
Sam (pulling my left ear and in a sexy gravelly voice): Can we go shopping, Uncle?
Self: What, what, what, what? I can’t hear you! And so on, but it didn’t work.
Silence is golden
My next tactic was to ask for silence because I was meditating.
Recently divorced, I needed time to think and find solace, I said. I don’t think anybody seriously believed that but I persisted anyway.
My very brief career as a member of a Silent Order of monks went largely unnoticed in our noise-polluted and boisterous household.
At this point I decided that the best way of fighting fire was with fire as per original plan. I do have my own collection of 60’s 70’s rock classics.
All I needed was a couple of Tea Chest like Woofers with fake trade names, hook them up to a fake Denon amp with a fake Pioneer thingummy and play Dick Dale.
Dick Dale and the deaf-tones
People of my age would know Dick Dale. A 60’s guy, he played loud guitar instrumentals.
Being a left handed guitarist and not being able to afford a left handed guitar, he played a right handed guitar by holding it upside down, with devastating effect.
He is a legend!
He is totally deaf now. A totally deaf legend!
The extent of the Noise Pollution problem in Sri Lanka only really became clear to me when I tried it out. I got my set up going, first having checked the house electrics in case they fused. There was steam issuing out of the safety valves! I think we were on about 250 watts on the amp and I was on my third straight whisky and Dick Dale hit that famous middle bit in “Misirlou”.
The reaction was not electrifying.
Nobody really noticed.
I said: Nobody really noticed!
Didja hear me?
I might as well have been standing in the middle of the runway at Heathrow Airport!
The cats just yawned and stretched antero-posteriorly!
Somebody increased the already high volume on the TV and a young son of a nephew, still more or less in nappies, started playing discordant sounds on a fake Gibson electric guitar trying to imitate Dick Dale.
The aforementioned Sam, my lovely but loud niece, emerged out of her room yawning. “Oh, Uncle! Not that boring, quiet 1960 type music!” and stuck a couple of earphones in my earholes and played some noise.
Although I was sitting down at the time I did ascend approx. 32cms and in the general direction of the curtains and with my claws out. In the process I may have uttered an involuntary “Meeeorw!” but I didn’t hear myself.
I just couldn’t compete with all this noise.
All I can now hope is that, like Dick Dale, I will go deaf one day, soon.
I am sure Dick Dale is happy in his Deaf-Age.

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