The sound of silence
Silence is what I remember the most. Dark, deadened, absolute. A crinkled face, furrows of worry wrinkling up his forehead. I don't remember anything much. Just a darkened room and Janardhanan, his oily face gleaming, and deep, dark silence. This was Elipathayam, a Malayalam movie from the genre we used to call art movie as opposed to a regular movie filled with songs, dances, and lots of action. This movie from my childhood stands out in my mind for its silence.
The silence crept along the walls, plunged into olive green watery depths, danced off the velvety moss on the ancient rocks that encircled the pond, and perched on his head, slithering all over, dragging him into an abyss that even he cannot begin to fathom. Janardhanan’s sullen face with spindles of a salt and pepper mustache stares into the silence, eyes blanked out, soul empty. Silence follows us everywhere but nowhere on celluloid has it been captured and displayed as splendidly as it has been in Elipathayam.
Most art movies were like that...life as is, filled with voids and empty spaces. Definitely not accompanied by chirpy music to herald happiness, or the sad slow, twangs of the violin to nurse one's melancholy, or heart racing drum rolls to heighten conflict, suspense, anger, and tension. Young me used to think that life was like an art movie, filled with loads of empty silence, definitely not accompanied with varying mood music to mark the ups and downs of the day.
Fast forward a few decades. Surrounded by fruits of technology such as apples that have become our constant companions, hanging out in our pockets and backpacks, music has taken over life’s moments, big, small and everything in between, starting from meditation to the daily ride to work.
It was yet another cool winter morning in the desert. I sat to meditate with the soothing lull of meditative Tibetan music playing from the portable speaker. Past the initial cacophony of surging thoughts, each breath began to melt into the twang of the flute, transporting me to the edges of the Himalayas. Cottony balls of snow floating in the cold air, the vast expanse ensconced by the snow streaked blue mountains, still, eternal. I sat in a trance lifted by the meditation music swallowing everything else around. Later, I got into my car and drove to work, listening to rock music thundering through me, head nodding, fingers tapping, the curvy contours of the car cocooning me in hi fidelity sound. The beats kept tune with my heartbeat, adrenaline gushing, neurons rewiring as I gear for the battles ahead.
These days the sound of silence that ricochets through the empty spaces in between moments has given way to the sound of music that fills and flows. Life with iPhones, Spotify and portable speakers certainly comes a lot closer to a mainstream movie with songs and dances aplenty than an art movie frozen in silence.