Last week I was travelling by bus from a city in western Maharashtra to my home town. It was late in the evening around 10 p.m. The bus took a scheduled halt for dinner at a roadside restaurant. I usually prefer light meals in the evening and while travelling it gets even more lighter. Quickly wrapping up my dinner I headed out of the restaurant for a walk while other fellow passengers were gorging on food.
The restaurant was kind of in the middle of nowhere with huge open fields in the front and at the back. It was pitch black outside the footprints of its lights. Clear open skies above with generous sprinkling of stars presented a perfect backdrop. It was completely still, dark and silent. The only audible sound was that of the insects in the fields and an occasional gust of pleasant wind produced that rustling sound of dry leaves. It was as if the world and time had stopped. I could hear my own breathing and it dawned upon me that you can literally ‘hear’ the silence.
Silence is a wonderful phenomenon. It has a soothing and calming effect. You can hear it when you are at home, alone, doing nothing with only the ceiling fan generating that soft whir. You can hear it in late winter nights with loud ticking of the wall clock. You can hear it accentuated on a particularly wet evening after heavy rains with the chirping of the crickets and the croaking of the frogs. You can hear it at dawn with the gentle chirping of the birds. You can hear it on the mountain top with the wheezing of the breeze. You can hear it on an uncrowded sea beach as the waves crash ashore. You can hear it on a trek in the remote woods as the sounds of birds and animals trickles in.
As it turns out, different surroundings at different points of time coupled with specific natural sounds create a unique flavour of silence. Now am not trying to get creepy but if you get adventurous enough to venture deep into the woods at night and on top of that get lucky enough to hear the hoot of the owl and the howling of the wolf, silence doesn’t get more deafening than that! What I am driving at is, if a thing or phenomenon is to be experienced, it has to be from outside its reference frame. Put simply, there has to be that ‘anti’ thing.
Just as to experience light, there has to be darkness, to experience the heat, there has to be the chill, to experience movement, there has to be stillness. To experience the good, there has to be a bad, to experience the sweet taste, there has to be a bitter taste. Same goes for silence. That gentle breeze, that rhythmic breathing of self, that distant chirping of the crickets, that gentle splashing sound of water on the beach or the melodious cooing of the cuckoo in the morning actually help you hear the silence. It is difficult to imagine how our ‘hearing challenged’ brothers and sisters perceive silence since unfortunately they cannot hear the sounds.
Silence is the language of the Universe, most natural, most original. All other sounds are its ‘anti’ manifestations. It is just that some sounds discussed above compliment silence and help bring out its pleasant experience. I am tempted to quote one of the verses from the song ‘sound of silence’ by Simon and Garfunkel:
And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence