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Silence is the thing, amid the din

The noise and confusion that reigns in the world around us.

The noise and confusion that reigns in the world around us.  

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A French black-and-white silent movie, The Artist, won top honours at the Academy Awards in 2012. It had to happen. There is so much eloquence in silence. Remember the Charlie Chaplin genre of films? Are they coming back? I am no movie buff. But violence and noise are things humankind should shun. And silence being golden is a good break, and we are in dire need of it. The cacophony all around is killing.

We watch on television the noise and confusion that reigns in the world around us. Everybody has something to say but nobody wants to listen. There is zero tolerance.

We watch programmes on TV where the anchor and a panel of experts discuss and analyse issues. They begin nicely enough, but when the debate gets heated, sparks fly and everyone begins to talk simultaneously. Even the anchor has a problem controlling them. The one with most lung power out-speaks others. We are left numb.

Thank god we have the option of switching off the TV to get instant relief. Today’s music is also all noise. Where are the lyrics and the soft and soothing voices? Thank god for classical music — we still can listen to them and derive soul satisfaction.

I admire the silence of the West. Their neighbourhoods are so quiet. One can drink deep of such silence, especially when one is on a walk absorbing a lot of things. I love my India alright, but our strong point is not silence. We may well be one of the noisiest countries on the planet. In the bus, or in queues, in movies theatres, restaurants or even when they go for walks, people talk so loudly that they will wake up entire neighbourhoods — especially early in the morning. Now with dogs abounding on every street, if one dog starts barking, others follow it up with a chorus.

Even children don’t lag behind. I remember watching kids at play in a neighbourhood, abroad. There, like the adults the kids hardly ever scream or shout. Only Indian children scream their throats out.

This happened when I was once holidaying in the U.S. in Silicon Valley. A Japanese lady complained to the office of an apartment complex about an Indian family. The parents were off to work, and the grandparents had come for a holiday and they were teaching the kids slokas. Everytime the kids recited back what had been taught, the grandparents and the kids clapped with all their might, creating a ruckus.

The Japanese lady said: “That is the time my baby is fast asleep and my neighbours are yelling their heads off. The baby is startled into waking up and I am unable to finish my house work.” Being in the adjoining building, I too had heard the kids reciting the slokas and thought it to be laudable. The grandparents, I thought, were spending quality time with them, but they could have kept the decibel level low.

Once upon a time fire-crackers were lighted only during Deepavali. Now they are set off on birthdays, weddings, elections and what have you. Accompanying them on such occasions is loud film music. The world, as Wordsworth wrote, ‘is too much with us’. We are drowning in a welter of noise and other negative factors like road rage, violence, fisticuffs and streetfights. We see so much pent-up anger in people on a number of issues waiting to explode. The word ‘kolaveri’ said it all.

Remember the ‘Tower of Babel’ where people were shouting themselves hoarse in a diversity of tongues and nobody wanted to hear the other? We thought it was mythical, but no, it was real enough. All the chaos is back, it seems. As they say there is nothing new under the sun and history has a way of repeating itself. Things have to come full circle.

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2020 2:12:10 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/silence-is-the-thing-amid-the-din/article6578658.ece

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