Silence speaks volumes

Instant gratification.  Self-centred behaviour.  Personal promotion.  We are now inured to these expressions.  Examples of these can be seen in social media every minute of each day.  Circulation of “feel good” and “spiritually enlightening” messages that encourage recipients not to “break the chain” and reap tremendous benefits.  Selfies broadcasting travel itineraries with pictures at the airports when departing/arriving.  Clicking and circulating pictures of the meal one is about to eat and of the people gathered around the table.  Self-congratulatory “humbled to receive” announcements at being nominated for some award.  Pictures modelling the latest acquisition of clothing, accessories, or a car etc., etc.  All this might have been considered gauche, even boorish behaviour a few years ago.  But societies change, fads come and go and then something new comes along to grab our attention.

This does not necessarily mean that we are self-centered.  Perhaps we feel isolated.  We can connect with people of our choice and are able to communicate with anyone instantaneously, transcending geographic and time zones.  It appears that while everyone wants to talk no one is willing to listen.  Perhaps that is why an individual feels the need to, metaphorically speaking, “shout” to be heard and get acknowledged.  This is perhaps even more essential today because each of us is vying for attention to claim our aspirations and a share of resources that may be in short supply.  This struggle may apply to any part of our lives, be it jobs, consumer products or even meaningful, lasting relationships.

We repeatedly hear about, or may even have witnessed the proverbial tableaux of people sitting down for a “family” dinner with each member of the family self-centeredly glued to her/his device.  I recall my mother and her mother-in-law both admonishing my father many years ago and not allowing him to read the morning newspaper when seated at the breakfast table.  My brother and I were not allowed to carry our comics or engrossing novels to the dining table.  Instead, conversation was encouraged and everyone participated.  Fortunately, our children have continued this practice and no books, toys or other distractions are permitted at meal times with their own kids.

A Greek philosopher had stated, “We have two ears and one mouth for a reason; so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”

 “Seva” is a lovely Sanskrit expression that means selfless service.  This concept features prominently in all faiths and the followers of each faith are encouraged to serve the community.  Perhaps the greatest “seva” one could perform is to simply open oneself to another and listen attentively to another person without prejudice, making them feel special.  I meet with a senior person regularly and often we sit in comfortable silence for 15 or 20 minutes.  Each time as I get ready to take his leave, he smiles and says, “Thank you for coming, I really enjoyed our chat today.”

Listen in silence and enjoy a chat with yourself today.

Allow the fragrance of this lovely ghazal by Zia Jalandhari, soulfully sung by Abida Parveen to envelop you:

Rang baatein karein, aur baaton se khushboo aaye, Colors (start to) speak, and (our) tête-à-tête turns fragrant …
Dard phoolon ki tarah mehake, agar tuu aaye … like a bouquet of flowers radiating from (my heart) ache, when you arrive (come to me)
Bheeg jatee hain is ummeed pe aankhe har shaam,  Each evening (my) eyes tear up in the hope …
shaayad is raat, woh mehtaab lab-e-juu aaye … that perhaps this night, that (person with the visage of the) moon, the one with eyes like a lake might come
Hum teri yaad se kataraa ke guzar jaate magar, 


Perhaps I could have tried to dodge past memories of you …
raah mein phoolon ke lab, saayon ke gesu aaye … (but) banks of flowers (like the touch of your lips) and their shadow, like your dark tresses stood in my way (every thing reminded me of you)
Aazmayish ki ghadi se guzar aaye to ‘Zia’,


Having passed the testing moment (of our separation), “Zia” (poet’s pen name) …
jashn-e-gham jaari hua, aankh mein aansoo aaye … the celebration of sorrow burst forth and tears came to my eyes




6 Replies to “Silence speaks volumes”

  1. Yes, nicely expressed sentiments Pankaj. I find an abiding pathos in most of the self focused social media posts…an unfulfilled longing for human connection – any connection at all.


  2. The distance between two people can be traversed on the busy highway of words or the more scenic route of silence. That, I guess, depends on whether it’s a Monday morning memo or a Sunday brunch with the one who can read your thoughts.


  3. Hey Pankaj! I remember being the class clown way back in one of my grade nine math classes., and Mrs. Lanz, our math teacher, admonishing me with one cutting phrase. “Mr Frattini” she said ” I’ve found in life empty vessels make the most noise”. Grade nine was a long time ago and I can’t remember what I learned in grade nine math but I can certainly remember Mrs Lanz life advice. We need to ponder our need for noise and attention. Your post is a wonderful reminder to do just that.


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