In Mute

Our ears are all accustomed to a variety of day to day sounds. As I’m not an early bird, a typical day of mine starts with the honk of some vehicle at 8:00 or 9:00am. But ideally first thing you would be hearing early morning, by early I mean, as early as 5 in the morning, is the Suprabhatham chant. Now to those who are not familiar with this one, Suprabhatham chants are a collection of hymns and verses which are chanted early morning to wake up the deities of the temple. The famous and the common one that we hear in most of the temples and houses is the Venkateswara Suprabhatam and sung by MS Subbalakshmi to wake up Lord Balaji. The chant progresses in a steady rhythm from the first line to the last line. The only one word you can make out is “Suprabhatam” which means ‘have a good morning’. In spite of the monotonous nature of the whole hymn, this is said to be the ideal song to which one should wake up. I always feel some kinda vibe when I hear it early morning, one tone which through its continuous reverberations can get your blood running to every nook and corner of your body, like a kick starter. I do not know how many of you will get the feel when I say, to stand in the balcony with a tumbler of steaming coffee, Suprabhatam in the background, and the young girl drawing the auspicious ‘kolam’ at her door step. This is the best time of the day, when every thing is calm and serene.

As you sink into the rhythmic verses, the next distinguishable sound you would hear is none other than the fishmonger’s moped, as loud as a tractor with his blaring honk. One that is loud enough to spill the coffee in your hand. Followed by the cacophony caused by women who has come to buy the fishes. They circle the monger digging into the basket tied to his vehicle and prattle amongst themselves so loudly that the whole neighbourhood wakes up from its slumber. They bargain and bargain until, he succumbs to their price. Personally I always feel that he loves coming to these women, to get surrounded by them, have these tête-à-tête with them, enquiring about their homes, husband, kids. Then you can hear the loud hoot of the boy who sells vegetables in his moving trolley. He circles around every house trying to coax the lady to buy some vegetables from him.

The whole scenario changes if it is a rainy day. It starts slowly, pitter- patter, pitter-patter on the roofs. Droplets falling from the sunshade to your veranda, droplets falling through the terracota tiles into your home.  And then gradually as it gets heavier, all other sounds get soaked into this furious tirade of droplets. Occasionally you can hear a heavy splash, like a pail of water dropped from above, drenching some poor soul on road. It would be considered a luxury if you can allow yourself to roll up underneath the blanket, listening to the rains drumming at your windows. A cold wind that soothes your mind and soul.

Then slowly your calm and quiet neighbourhood turns into Piccadilly Circus with school vans honking at the gates, mothers yelling at their kids, clanking of vessels and spoons in the kitchen, the roads filled with bustling men and women, traffic jams. The construction site near by has come up alive with those monstrous machines churning cement, digging earth with their claw, clattering of spades and shovels, adding to the bedlam. It is topped by some announcement through those almirah sized sound boxes kept on road and sharp whistles by the traffic police. Noise, noise and more noise all day. At work, your boss is testing his vocal chords by pushing it to a louder and stressful note. Then the non stop tring of your mobile phones, messages, battery. .Argh. .

As I come home, I fall into bed feeling tired and exhausted. Cursing all the noise. What if we have a day in mute? Absolutely no sound.

I slowly open my eyes, fumble for the phone, it’s already 7.35am!! The alarm in snooze! Why didn’t I hear that!! With my eyes, slightly opened, I walk towards the door, slide the latch open. I slide it back in. Eh, I did not hear any sound. My eyes fly open realizing I did not hear that rusty iron latch slide in or out!! I walk out into the balcony feeling little odd. The silence is deafening. No chirping of birds, no sound of sweeping brooms. Then I see our same old fish monger. He now has a board which shows the rates of the fishes hung to his basket. The women, they look dull and depressed, no more gossiping, no more bargaining. They stand obediently in a queue to buy the fish. I feel a gentle breeze but cannot hear the susurration of the leaves.

I go back in feeling little off beat. Though I cannot hear it, the clock is ticking and I need to get to office. I rush to the bathroom and open the tap. I can see the water gushing out of the tap, but I cannot hear !! Its is creepy when you can touch and feel and yet cannot hear that gurgling sound. Water falls into the bucket but as silent as a grave. I slip in a bunch of bangles on my wrist in dead air. No jingling sound. In the kitchen, I bang several vessels while making tea, and hear nothing but vacuum.

Feeling all haywire, I walk out of home and close the gate behind me.Wait a second, no sound of  the wailing, arthritic hinges of the gate. As I walk down the lane, I saw people confused as I was. In the hurry to get to work, I bang my foot on the cement pavement, it hurt so much that a cry escaped my mouth only to get vapourised into thin air! The dogs were barking ferociously and running around but it made no difference. I screamed aloud. It frustrated me that I could not hear my own frustration! And then, a small voice in my head asked me to turn around, and all I could see was the headlight of a vehicle speeding towards me. .

I let out a loud cry and was up on my bed. . For the first time, I felt, waking up to my own sound was heaven.

A day sucked out of sound is suicidal. 🙂


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