The Sound of Silence

The things we think about, brood on, dwell on, and exult over influence our life in a thousand ways. When we can actually choose the direction of our thoughts instead of just letting them run along the grooves of conditioned thinking, we become the masters of our own lives. Eknath Easwaran

In the still of the night the beast comes alive. It persists, annoys and tears my insides till it wakes me up from my deep slumber. Then the battle between woman and beast begins with the latter winning each time. The hacking sounds that follow has my husband turning towards me in consternation. There’s a pained look on his face as he watches me cough incessantly. The mug of warm water and lozenges lying on the bedside table near me are also a mute witness to my suffering. I look around the dark room and hear the faint whispers of the night. The momentary silence between the coughing bouts are comforting.

For more than a week now I’d been laid up with a viral infection. Sore throat, fever, cold and cough appeared in rapid succession like unwelcome guests at a party. The good news was that the first three moved onto fresher pastures before the first course of the dinner was over. The bad news was that the last one continued to linger even after the desert.

“Rest your vocal chords!” The doctor’s advice kept ringing in my ears. Easier said than done. Even if I did want to talk, I simply couldn’t. That’s when I began to appreciate the sounds around me.The pigeons cooing in my balcony while leaving their mark on the floor as they flew away. The shrieks of my neighbor’s little Jedis playing with their toy light sabers outside my apartment door in the common area. The guffaws of old men from the laughter club waking up the entire building at the crack of dawn as they huddled on the lawns outside. I also began to savor the quiet that appeared at odd intervals. Silence. Silence was an old friend of mine.

I grew up in a home which was mostly quiet. My father was a taciturn man while my mother was a busy housewife who didn’t have the time to chat. I was happy to be left alone in my world of books and music. Years later when I got married into a large family, I was surrounded by women who had a compulsive need to talk and an equally perverse desire to make me listen to them. I had an irrational desire to speak my mind at times but often the words were stuck in my throat. Silence. Now the same friend became a pesky thing that I wanted to shove out the door.

“You’ve started speaking a lot more!” My aged uncle remarked when he met me after twenty years. I was pondering aloud on the happy partnership between silence and meditation to him when he made the observation. Was I more talkative than before? I wondered. Yet my daughters refrained from answering that question when I asked them. Their feeble answer was a tad regretful. “We can never shout out Earth-calling-mom!” 

It needed a temporary illness to make me recall my old friend. Silence. A friend that I had somehow forgotten along the way.

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