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That visceral feeling

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I am on a flight to Chennai. I have to my left a South Indian gentleman.

As I pore over my notes for the talk I am to give the next day, reading and typing using the back-lit keys of my laptop, I found I had encouraged my neighbour to do so.

After a while, the laptop seems to have been given up for a magazine. Adjusting his posture, reading glasses on, he opens to a certain story in the magazine. I don’t quite catch the title: it has lots of text, no pictures.

Then the voice in my head asks me to go back to my business. The talk is on the power of sound and I suddenly realise that the sound of a baby crying in pain is probably the best example for me to give under my slide “the visceral effects of sound”.

The start

Even as I toy with the idea, my senses are assailed by the sound of snoring. I try and look without turning leftward and see nobody asleep. But the snoring is getting louder, and coming out in somewhat complex patterns. Coincides with the section in my talk about rhythm structures.

I shun the ridiculous idea of trying to figure out the time cycle of the snore. But I’m now more interested in knowing the source of this ear-numbing sound. Since the magazine was still very much open and clutched, I didn’t bother looking up at the face. But yes, it was my neighbour! Looks like he was priming me for my talk by providing an ambience!

With the source established, and my talk now forgotten, I am waiting to see when the magazine slips out of his fingers. I do this deftly, using only the corner of my eyes. It’s not for nothing I was called a cat as a kid. Soon, curiosity got the better of me and I caught a quick glimpse . We had amongst us a full-blown dreamer, complete with expressions, head nods and what not?

An extension

Our flight is delayed by another 15 minutes. Something must’ve told him we weren’t air-borne yet. So I hear a murmur. Him asking his colleague, a much quieter South Indian, what the update was. “Fifteen more minutes,” said the colleague, but our man was out again at 15.

Just then, magically, as if to validate and test my initial idea on the use of a baby’s sound, a real one, just two rows ahead, treats me to a variety of them. It started with irritation, some rather cat-like screeches, and then a full-blown howling session. There could be pain, I don’t doubt it. Little creatures do have it hard on flights but we haven’t taken off yet, so I am thinking, “perhaps you’re just irritated by the delay, huh”. So, I had a very clear moment of a visceral reaction. Irritation. I’m now sure to use it at the talk.

Ah, well. And so it goes. The magazine still remains firmly in his hand. Baby seems somewhat pacified. And I’m back to my notes. And now we are taxiing…

rc_44nat@yahoo.co.in

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2020 8:45:05 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/that-visceral-feeling/article21249452.ece

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