When Silence Speaks Aloud

It has been quite a few years since the National Anthem is being played in cinema halls prior to screening a movie. People who are seated comfortably with their Popcorns, Pepsis and Samosas in tow, grudgingly get up, sometimes partnered with groans and chair squeaks. Those in the aisles impatiently wait for the anthem to begin and end as soon as possible – wishing they had come in earlier to avoid groping for their seats in the darkness. It is sad to see that no sooner are the closing lines of the Anthem sung, that you see people sitting down and snuggling in the seat comfortably.
 
I thought I had seen all versions of the National Anthem. There is never a “bad” rendition of the Anthem. Till a couple of years ago, my favourite one was by Bharat Bala Productions, released to commemorate the 50th year of the Indian Republic. More than 30 acclaimed artistes from the musical fraternity in India, including Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosale, Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Shivkumar Sharma, Bhimsen Joshi and others present a ear pleasing mix of harmonious sounds. And every time I hear A.R. Rehman sing “Jaya He” in the end, it sends a shiver down my spine.
 
Then came the one shot at the Siachen Glacier in the Karakoram range of the Great Himalayan Mountains. It is picturised on the brave soldiers of the Indian Army, who stand shoulder to shoulder, guarding the highest and most difficult battlefield in the world. The white expanse is in deep contrast with the Indian tri-colour, as it flutters in the sky – a tribute to our valiant Army. The mellow music reaches deep within and evokes a sense of national pride.
 
“Please stand up for the National Anthem” said the movie screen when I went to watch a film recently – What hit me after that left me speechless.
 
Children are seen standing in rows, impatiently, in the school playground. A little girl comes running through the corridor. She is clearly late for the assembly. She runs through the rows and stands in front of the stage. The music begins. It is then you notice the ear machines that all the children have worn. The entire piece is presented in sign language by children with hearing and speech impairments. And they begin to sing. They sing without words – they sing through their hands, they sing through their eyes and they sing through their moving lips which emit no sound. The best part? In the end, when the children gently wave their palms to signify the fluttering of the flag.
 
It is brilliant in more than one way – not just because the campaign won a silver at Cannes 2011. It shows how silence can be an effective way to commnunicate. A person means to say something which is understood in a completely different way by another. In a land where people are divided by language, we break free from the spoken words and possible miscommunication thereafter. Sometimes, the simplest of things are communicated with the least of words, or as in this case, none.
 
It was the first time I noticed that not a single person moved during the entire National Anthem. Everyone stood transfixed by the rendition. It took me to such a beautiful place where the mind and the heart both co-exist without argument. I stood for a while after it was over, sat down quietly and wiped a stray tear.
 
Truly, patriotism knows no language.
 
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The Slow Death of the Mumbaiyya “Spirit”


Dear Mr. Authority,

    The clock ticks ominously as there is another triad of bomb blasts that rock the city. Just when I am almost certain that Mumbaikars have nothing to worry about, there is another insane attack on the city – rendering me helpless once again. Well planned attacks as earlier – in the highly crowded areas at a time when people are jostling each other to get home from work on time!

    And then begin the political cat fights. The Opposition purposefully opposes and reigning Government vehemently defends. The blame-game ensues – terrorists, extremists, naxalites or even the deceased Osama. The parliament convenes, issues orders, rejigs the cabinet, deputes more money to put up supposedly terrorist-proof barricades and then adjourns with the same lack of mental strength and helplessness as us commoners.

    And a week later- newspapers, TV shows, radio programmes will all be galore about how Mumbai has bounced back, left everything behind and is up on its feet. Celebrities, politicians and anyone who is someone talking about the infallible Mumbaiyya Spirit of rising and re-rising from the ashes every time.

    I am unable to understand your shortcomings to instill the basic sense of security in the citizens. After all the talks of implementing advanced security options post previous terrorist attacks and squeezing money out of us for the same, we are yet to see the result that was projected to be seen. I personally do not believe in the safety measures put in place in malls, theatres or even railways stations. Anyone could easily carry arms/ammunition within the recesses of their bag and go scot free through the security check at the entrance. 


    Atleast don’t mock us with a false sense of hope that we are truly safe here – we are no idiots.

    It is not anger that makes me talk this way – it is that vulnerability of knowing that I can’t do anything about it. Whom do we look upto for support in times like these? Who is there to protect us? Why is the common man being taken for granted here? Each of us has these questions in the mind – hounding us – till we realize they are just rhetorics and have no answer.

    Do we have a choice of being lost in sorrow and not moving on? Do we have a choice other than springing back into action and leaving everything else behind? No sir, we do not have the luxury of making a choice. We are forced to go back to business as usual, trying to calm our troubled minds. It is nerve wrecking every time I see an abandoned scooter in a bylane or an unclaimed bag on the overhead rack in the train. The claimed “Mumbaiyya Spirit” is just short of a farce now.

    I am scared – scared of the uncertainity that I have to live in. Scared of these unknown faces who derive sadistic pleasure from wiping the existence of random innocent people. Scared for myself and scared for everyone around me. Mumbai is not a safe haven – being well- exposed to all sorts of evils.

    I humbly request you to sit up and take notice. It is time to take corrective action with lasting repercussions. Instead of just having a brilliant sweep-up team post an atrocious event, kindly invest in putting up the precautionary measures as well. I still want to believe that you can protect us in the future. Don’t kill my home sir, don’t kill my city.

Yours sincerely,
A hapless commoner


P.S: In the interim, I shall go back to uphold the many expectations that are set by the Mumbaiyya Spirit. I rally in front of the Mantralaya, participate in the Remembrance walk for the deceased and light a candle at the Gateway of India.

To Nimesh, With Love


 
 

Hi dude,

Ssup? Wow, it sure is weird writing a letter to you. But then you’ve gone so far away from us that I wonder if they have an Airtel connection there. I try calling you like a million times, but then, your phone is switched off. Like always, I send a nasty message to revert and expect your call anytime now – full of reasons for being unavailable on the phone – ranging from “I was just about to call you, but then….” or “I was stuck in traffic” to the eternal classic “I was in a photo shoot”. But no such call came from you. Not today. Not ever.

God has funny ways of showing us just how much we take people for granted, and just how much importance they hold in our lives – it is by taking them away from us. Sure we have had our ups and downs, but then, who doesn’t? Fights, laughter, lengthy discussions about random topics, train journeys, photo escapades were all so much fun with you around. And our unsaid policy of “politely agreeing to disagree” on matters of conflict helped us to not get at each other’s throats!

The bond we shared has been so inexplicable, so beautiful. So full of life, so genuine, so crazy – it will take a while to get used to the fact that you aren’t going to be around to pump my enthusiasm. You’ve been a wonderful friend – helping me when I was totally messed up with my own life, making me believe in myself once more and convincing me to do what I love the most.

Of course I’m mad at you for going away so suddenly, so rudely – but then I understand, God too wants some kick-ass people around him for entertainment. You know, it poured like crazy for about 15 minutes after they got you home. I knew you had reached your final destination then – only you could have convinced Him to send us a shower after the near draught in Mumbai. I looked up at the sky and smiled. I almost reached out my hand to touch you as you lay motionless on the floor – but you looked so peaceful that I did not have the heart to wake you up.

Maybe I should have hugged you a little tighter when I bid you goodbye last night. Maybe I should have stayed back for some more time to talk. Maybe I should have listened more carefully even when you ranted about mundane things. But you are gone now – and all I am left with are the “Maybe’s”

So how is it up there? Lush greens and endless blues? I can imagine you sipping on some good old wine, working your charm on the pretty ladies with delicate wings and enjoying thoroughly in the land where the sun never sets. Yeah, it’s going to be a while where you can continue mingling with the celestial bodies on your own – but mind you, when the rest of us join you up there, we’ll start off from where we left and have one Hell of a time!

You are free now, free from the bonds that bind us to this world of unwarranted expectations. You are in a happier place now – wherever you may be.

Rest In Peace Nimesh, hope you bid adieu to this world knowing fully well that you were loved by so many of us here and will be missed by many more.
Catch ya later, stud! Lotsa love!