Silence speaks so much louder than words.

The other day I was out on one of my nocturnal cycling trips. Having reached the destination, a secluded beach, I found myself a nice quiet spot to sit down and unwind. I began to meditate on the serenity of the silence occasionally broken by the pleasant sound of waves crossing onto the shore, thinking about nothing in particular, when a rather loud group of people broke the tranquility of the scene. I did not pick up what they were chattering about, since they all seemed to be speaking together without any significant pauses. It got me wondering – why are we always so eager to speak and so reluctant to listen when others speak?

I consider speaking to be a form of art, not unlike painting. A speaker feels something and chooses to express the feelings through his speech. He tries to evoke the same feelings in you through his speech. A good speaker is one who manages to get the intended feelings across without any misunderstandings or ambiguities. And yet I believe speaking differs fundamentally from painting.

To me, the biggest difference between the two art forms lies in where the painting takes place. All of painter’s tools – the colors, the brushes and and the canvas – lie right in front of him. He is free to do with them whatever he pleases. The same liberty is denied to the speaker. The tools here do not lie with the speaker, but with the listener. The speaker merely dictates while the listener, the actual painter, has at his disposal the colors of his own experiences, the brushes of his own judgment and the canvas of his own imagination to paint his own picture.

Words are merely a guide to the listener. And quite an unreliable one at that. The speaker wants to express something profound, cobbles up a brief approximation of what he feels using whatever limited vocabulary he possesses and speaks it out loud. His intended feeling, thus deflated and depleted of it’s essence, piggybacks on these words which travel through the physical world, subject to all of it’s chaos and noise, reach the listener’s ears and are intercepted by his brain. His brain registers the sound and begins the process of inflating the words back. But the essence of the feeling that was lost in transit though the narrow conduits of our language, the magic that was vaporized while burning through the pathways of our vocabulary, makes the words sound hollow to the listener. So his brain paints them up with it’s own tools and tries to recreate the lost magic.

Silence is the best part of any conversation. As long as words are being spoken back and forth, the real feelings and emotions they intend to convey keep getting slaughtered. Silence offers a chance to recollect and rearrange. A chance to pick up the strewn bits and pieces lying around from the obscene onslaught of words. The listener will still paint them up using his own experiences and judgments. But now, given the time, he will use the best possible combination of colors, the right shades of judgments to breathe life back into the words. He will use the time to draw the best possible curves, curves that reach out the listener and make him yell with joy, “That is exactly what I meant!”

I have done it all

I have, during my nocturnal yawns,

Slain mythical beasts with my bare fists

Ridden the storms perched on mighty gryphons

I have, within my mental fence,

Made decisions that influence nations

Flown continents to dine with presidents

I have, from the comfort of my pillow,

Exceeded infinity twice in written history

Slipped in Zero and let Aryabhatta be the hero

I have, in the gospels of my religion,

Slain the Satan inside the Garden of Eden

Expunged heaven, decreed Men and God as one

I have, in the cosmos of my creation,

Witnessed star birth light years from Earth

Breached Event Horizon aboard Starship Poseidon

I have, while living my alter ego’s life,

With utmost clarity seen the illusion of reality

Ended mortal strife by revealing the meaning of life

Behind closed eyelids, I have seen it all

Beyond sealed lips, I have said it all

Past my forbidden thoughts, I have done it all

The Kernel and I are one now

Inspired by this xkcd :

Once upon a time there lived a Devoted Linux User

Bestowed upon him was the moniker /dev/luser

For long he put up with the tantrums of Ubuntu

And the mandatory biannual tearing of hairs too

Then one day he had a life altering epiphany

Or perhaps, I daresay, just a drink too many

He let out a violent scream that shook the Earth

“Curse be upon you, O Canonical, O Shuttleworth!”

Down the stairs, into the basement he did resign

Locked the door, complete with a “Do not disturb” sign

Hours turned to days, days into several weeks

Yet from beyond the door came not a single squeak

He left the basement neither to wine nor to dine

Neither to unload his bowels nor to release his brine

His loyal friends, worried for his health and sanity

Decide to break the door down with utmost urgency

As the dust settles, a ghastly scene meets their eyes

For the room is full of spiders, cobwebs and flies

In the far corner, sitting on a chair, back turned to them

/dev/luser typing feverishly, all ten fingers in tandem

Screen an undecipherable wall of scrolling green text

Which /dev/luser groks keenly without breaking a sweat

Bravest friend takes a cautious step forward. A big folly!

His first step lands upon something circular and shiny

A primal fear grips him as he bellows loudly, “NOOO!”

For embossed on the CD were the letters “GENTOO”

Time slows down, everything gets frozen in space

Except /dev/luser who persists typing at unabated pace

He turns back, his eyes bloodshot, his face lifeless

His voice, inhuman and robotic, pierces bone and flesh

“Forget the why, forget the when, forget the how”

“All I remember is that kernel and I are one now”

The foul yellow nights

Getting back to the city after a brief vacation in the far countryside makes you realize how accustomed you have become to all the filth and dirt surrounding you, especially if the city is as filthy and dirty and overflowing with people as Mumbai.

Meat crammed in with meat
Inside concrete contraptions
Spills out onto the streets
In all it’s sweaty olfaction

The silent gaseous killer
Lurks ominous and omnipresent
Each breath a planted dagger
Of toxic fumes and putrid scents

Night reveals the true plight
Of life in vapid lucent cocoon
Lit by artificial yellow lights
Instead of stars and the moon

The majesty of the night sky
Lost forever in the urban haze
Yet the automations roll by
Uncaring, oblivious, unfazed

Remember to breathe

One day, I will stand alone
Against all odds, against all I own.

One day, I will look back
And see no beauty, nothing but wreck.

One day, I will scrutinise
All the unkept vows, all the broken ties.

One day, I will lament
Each missed chance, each silenced intent.

One day, I will die
Not a soul will notice, not a soul will cry.

That’ll be the day
I look up to the sky
And smile – trick or treat?

That’ll be my day
And I’ll remember to breathe.

The creature within

Highly disturbed by the mind-numbingly brutal rape of a 23 year old in Delhi, yet incapable of doing actually doing anything about it, I decided to express my angst using literature. Written from the perspective of the victim.

A new creature is born within
Crawling viciously beneath my skin

Born out of carnal lust
Getting stronger with each thrust
Forever feed on my sanity, he must

I feel him inside me, defiling
desecrating, besmirching, befouling

I feel him outside, the penetrating gaze
The hushed voices, the media craze
Not the sinner, it’s your dress who betrays

Million digital black dots he conceives
Yet none match the blackness of his malice

It wasn’t me who lay there in that bus
Alone, helpless raped by beasts amorous

I have died a million times already
With each lecherous glance upon my body
Cast by the same who are shout today
“Injustice! Inequality! Heresy!”

We’re not so very special, You and I.

We people take ourselves way too seriously. We think too little and act too much. We listen too little and speak too much, yet never truly say what we want to say. We split ourselves up into personalities to fit into the roles we are expected to play – each person being just a pathetic semblance of our true self. In school, it’s the obedient Oswald, in college, it’s the studious Steve, in office it’s the hard-working Harold, at home it’s the angry Adam. In all the hustle and bustle of juggling between these persona, we have forgotten that we are greater than the sum of these fractions of our individuality. What we need is to take a step backwards and ask ourselves “Where the hell did I come from and where am I going?”

Think for a moment about the time when you were a kid – when you still had the ability to marvel at the bulge of a water drop, or the air brushing past your hair, or the sunlight streaming in through the window, exposing a million fluttering dust particles floating aimlessly in space. Think for a moment about the time before you were even conceived in your mother’s womb. Or the time before your parents. Think of all the people who have lived throughout history whom you never had the chance of knowing. Think about the Neanderthal and the Australopithecus whose main concerns were how to survive the day without starving or being eaten alive and not what I should wear to impress that hot chick who smiled at me yesterday. Think of the mighty reptilian dinosaurs who roamed freely through the planet before a renegade meteor sealed their fate. The very place you are sitting at right now might have once witnessed an epic territorial dispute between a stegosaurus and a tyrannosaur. Think about the first photosynthetic organisms – the prokaryotes – who gave off oxygen as a waste product, releasing it freely into the atmosphere and making evolution of advanced life possible. You owe your existence to these tiny single-celled beings who have survived for fifty million of your lifetimes. Think about the time after you are gone. Your first death. You still continue to live in the memories of your loved ones. Time passes, they do their deeds, meet their ends much like you met yours. The last person to have any memory of you dies. This is your second death. From now on, no one knows of your existence. You become a mere statistic for the books – Six million died in India in year 2078. Without you, the figure would have been one shy of six million.

If we really are this insignificant in the grand scheme of things, what really is the point of living at all? Why not just put a bullet through the head and vanish without causing as much as a flicker in the grandiosity of the universe? We wouldn’t be wrong in thinking so – we do matter very little and our presence or absence hardly causes a ripple in the cosmic ocean. But consider the alternative. Since none of our actions are going to have any far-reaching consequences, we are free to do anything we want! Performed badly in exams? Girlfriend ditched you in favor of someone else? Think your life is ruined? In another billion years, the Sun will become too hot for liquid water to exist on Earth. That’s when life will be ruined. Worried about whether or not you made a good impression in last night’s party? Guess what, there will be no more parties to attend when the Andromeda galaxy rams into our Milky Way in another 4 billion years.

Once we can stop being so stuck inside our heads all the time and look – truly look – at the world as it exists outside the self-centered pseudoworld created by our mind, we cannot help but look back and laugh, “Those were my concerns and worries?”

Peering deeply into space might just become my new favorite pastime! 🙂