A painful throat condition rendered me speechless, literally. There was quiet celebration amongst the kids as reality hit that there wouldn’t be any sound coming from me for a few days. Without the benefit of speech, I was completely lost. Talking as a way of expressing everything I felt was always taken for granted. Without it, there was a sense of helplessness.
I started looking towards the happenings around me as one does cinema. Earlier, I used to drag my point of view behind me wherever I went, eager to push it into every conversation. Without that pressure now, I focussed on the person in front of me, on the voice, the facial expressions and the content of speech and I found out that quite often there was a mismatch between what a person was saying and what the eyes were expressing. How often had I overlooked this vital connection when dealing with people or my children?
As I lived in silence, I started quietening the mind as well. I started noticing the level of unnecessary noise everywhere. On the phone, in the streets, in shops, restaurants, bus-stops, on television and radios too, everywhere people were talking so much louder than they needed to.
Did anyone even realise, I wondered? Quite often the sound was harsh, crass and unpleasant to the ear. Talking, for most people seemed like an unconscious behaviour, just like breathing or blinking. Something requiring no thought.
My silence became a new teacher and it reintroduced me to myself. I read somewhere that silence is not mere noiselessness. It is friendly and loving, all-embracing, peace-giving. A body lacking silence will reveal its agitation through fidgeting, restlessness, hyperactivity, scratching, shuffling. Useless physical activity quite often reflects a cluttered mind….. silence taught me to listen and also taught me the importance of distilling my thoughts before opening my mouth. A calm, measured speech gives peace to the listener as well. A person talking too fast and too loudly can aggravate and raise the level of stress of the listener too.
“Ek chup… Sau Sukh” Grand-mother always used to say. Not every thought needs to be expressed. Choose silence sometimes, especially at those times when you cannot trust the words that will tumble out….