"Why is it so quiet? I like noise," says my four-year-old daughter.
I can't recall at what age one begins to prefer silence. When do you realize that you like to sit quietly, with yourself, for a few minutes that stretch to infinity? When does the complete lack of any sound stop being threatening? When does the endless sea of cacophony--blaring horns, impatient vehicles, incessantly ringing phones, conversations, arguments, television, radio, Himesh baba blaring in Coffee Day, loud music at every favored hangout--become an ordeal that one must live through to reach the shores of all-engulfing silence?
The wait for quiet is never as excruciating as during the Navratri in Mumbai. While bright lights and loud music find adequate complements in earthily colorful chaniya-cholis and feet that can't stay still, the monotonous and nerve-racking noise soon becomes an assault. There are those who live for these nine nights, there are those who are overwhelmed by the city's changed colors, and there are those who can't wait for them to get over.
Some people prefer the solid familiarity of noise over the unknown infinity of silence. The boundaries of their world are comfortingly etched by noise and sound; they hate to feel the gulf of loneliness that lies in the silences beyond. But silence is solitude too; quiet is comfort too.
Silence also has a voice, but it speaks only to close friends. Shyly, it welcomes the tired souls who have heard enough, seen enough, been through enough. It's a soft hand on the forehead, a firm grip of your hand, when you need it the most. For all its elusiveness and fragility, it is still a friend worth having. I have known no silence more intense, no quiet as deep, as that which flows from a clear night sky. The dark sky quietly ponders over its deep secrets, as the stars twinkle down at me, reminding me of the proper place of a single planet in the unfathomable cosmos.
A series of irritating sounds proclaim that someone's car is in reverse gear, and the whole universe must stop its ruminations and take note of the fact.