The only drums that Kanjurmarg-based music producer Abhimanyu Saha seems worried about these days are the ones in his ears. Unlike the continuous soundtrack of trains supplied by the railway station near his home, he finds it hard to tune out the shrill, high-frequency, metal-against-metal sound that has been rudely invading his consciousness through the partially-sound-proofed walls of his workstation for over two months now. “It starts every morning around ten, just when I am about to start thinking and focusing on work,” says the musician about the renovation work in the next building, inadvertently making his wife, Prachi–a media professional who has had to mute quite a few official calls thanks to the noise–chuckle.As if there weren’t enough ambient sounds to distract them already, the familiar Mumbai surround sound of frantic renovation in the wake of unlocking have started driving several work-from-home employees in Mumbai up the wall. The long lull of lockdown coupled with the start of a new year have predictably exacerbated the urge to renovate interiors of a space where home and office now converge. And though relentless urban home improvements are hardly a new irritant in the city, the fact that many can no longer escape the drilling, pounding and screeching makes neighbourly tolerance a tricky affair.”Sometimes, it feels like the ceiling’s going to fall on me,” says Thane-based brand project manager Jasmin Mani about the sounds of flooring and tile work that reach her second-floor home all the way from the sixth floor. Not only does the cacophony often reduce her family members to characters in an unintentional silent comedy movie by drowning out exchanges but also makes her bolt the bedroom door tight while taking official calls during her daily ten-hour-long, work-from-home shift. Recently, during Christmas, when her elder sister was over for two weeks along with her seven-month-old, the cries of the bawling baby only intensified the auditory chaos. “My nephew couldn’t sleep because of the noise,” says Mani.In Borivli, five-year-old Sohan Patil has been waking up to the sound of drilling in his neighbour’s flat on the eighth floor for two months now. It has become the persistent background score of his day even as he munches his breakfast, showers and plonks before his mother’s laptop for online school. “It’s a struggle to go through an hour of online school everyday with so much noise in the background. Earphones do not drown out the noise completely. It’s just increased my irritation and my son’s crankiness,” Sohan’s mother, Anjali, says wearily. Excruciated by the incessant drilling, a man living next door to a goon in Juhu is seriously contemplating moving out.Those who aren’t complaining are firms and private contractors who will tell you in confidence that their workers travel in local trains illegally (only certain categories of travellers are permitted as of now) to meet the huge uptick in business. In fact, home services platform Urban Company’s home repairs, painting and maintenance business is currently at about 1.5 to two times its pre-Covid peak. “More growth is expected this summer. This is a busy time for us, and we continue to be bullish on the growth prospects for 2021,” said Abhiraj Singh, co-founder of Urban Company.The search for the elusive Mumbai phenomenon of silence drives many to co-working spaces. “Noise is very much a part of an individual’s decision making process to opt for a coworking space. Whenever people step into our establishment, for instance, the first remark they make is how quiet and calm the place is,” said Marlies Bloemendaal, Founder, Ministry of New, a co-working space based out of Fort. “It leads to better work productivity as you get less distracted,” she said.Experiencing the benefits of silence for the first time during the lockdown seems to have amplified the nuisance value of unsolicited noises. “It’s high time the government brought in norms for construction and home repairs. Currently, there are none. There has to be something in black and white on the kind of equipment permitted or timings when work can be undertaken,” said anti-noise activist Sumaira Abdulali who has noticed complaints of noise from construction and renovation surging post unlock. While some housing societies try to put in restrictions such as disallowing carpentry work during afternoons, not all do. “Neighbours are affected the most. If they speak up against the noise, there is likely to be bad blood forever with the individual whose home is being renovated. So they simply bear it quietly,” says Abdulali, explaining why Kanjurmarg-based musician Saha’s eardrums are adjusting to the new sound of “metal” in his life.