Why is it that people cannot keep their voices down when speaking on their mobile phones?

In one of the front row seats of the long-distance bus was a young man who was in deep and loud conversation on his mobile phone.

I was in one of the window seats several rows behind him and the lights had been switched off to encourage everyone to sleep, but the youngster's conversation kept many of us awake.

His voice was so loud I could hear almost every word above the rumble of the engine and the rush of cool, night breeze through the partly-open window.

"No, uncle. You allow him to stay in a rented place. The hostel is not okay. As soon as I arrive, I will get a suitable place for both of us. I know some people who will get me a suitable place. I am sure of it," he said.

So he and a college classmate were planning to stay on their own, away from the authoritarian eyes of the hostel authorities, I thought.

However, "Uncle", who I assumed might be the classmate's father, was putting forth reasons why the two of them should stay in the hostel. The persuasive arguments went back and forth as the minutes dragged by. I hoped the mobile phone battery would get drained, but it did not.

Sometime later in the night, the middle-aged man in the seat behind mine answered his mobile phone. It seemed likely he was speaking to his newly-married daughter.

"You just keep calm and manage for a few days. When I return, we will sort out the matter," he said, raising his voice to make himself heard.

I could not help thinking, "Oh, no! Not again!" I did not want to listen to the sordid details of what seemed like a domestic battle that was threatening to break into a war. I did not want, either, to listen to a father's advice on surviving marriage.

You can shut your eyes, close your mouth, even hold your breath, but you cannot turn off your ears. I was condemned to have to be an unwilling listener.

As midnight drew near, the mobile phone of the young woman in the seat in front of mine came alive with a strident musical tune.

Now it was time to listen to sweet nothings in reply to a rapid succession of her friends, all of whom seemed to be young men trying to worm their way into her affections.

When the conversation became too hot to handle, she would disconnect the call and send a template text message, "Chee po da!" (Get lost!) to her caller. That brought only temporary relief, for the phone would ring, or rather, sing again.

I thought, not for the first time, "Why is it that people cannot keep their voices down when speaking on their mobile phones?"

I have had the misfortune of having to be in the vicinity of people who do not know where the microphone of their mobile phone is located.

Others seem to be scared about "harmful radiation" from the device, and keep the phone at right angles to their ears. Then they shout to make themselves heard.

On board buses and trains, and also in shopping malls, there are people whom I have nicknamed "mobile entertainers". They do not shout into their phones, they let their phones play discordant music at high volume, in languages that I do not understand.

On a bus one night, I was seated beside a man who played "music" on his mobile phone. After trying to keep my head turned aside for awhile, I plugged one ear with a finger, but the message did not get across. I plugged the other ear, but there was still no response. I turned to look at him, and found that he was asleep.