Sunday, April 5, 2009


"Is this luggage yours?", I enquired in my drained voice and received an equally weary positive nod. After some shuffling and dumping my overly heavy baggage, I crashed into my seat, exhausted. The local-train route to Chennai Central was clearly not the best option. Dragging my cartload at noon till Tidel Park station was not a good choice too. Sweaty, hungry, tired and in a window-seat, I dozed off for an hour only to be woken up by classmate Siddharth. He was two compartments away and called on me to enquire if I had any novel/magazine with me. After consoling him with a Rushdie, I settled down with the latest Tehelka. He stopped for a while, rolled his eyes and left with a you-have-a-cool-chick-I-have-a-grandpa expression on his face. Surprised that I was, trying not to look too obvious and as if casually scanning the surroundings, I stole a glance at my neighbour. Flowing hair, gentle face, hinting at north-east Indian origin and of fair complexion, simply dressed. Nothing very uncommon.
Half an hour later, sipping Masala Chai, an article on the old MPDA Amendment was making an interesting read. Tap-tap! Someone tapped me on my shoulder. I turned around only to realize that it was my neighbour. "Yes?", politely. In return, she showed me her mobile phone. Yes, Nokia 1100. Er.. bulb.. bulb.. As I looked closer at the screen though, I saw that the message window was open and the text read, "Can I please sit by the window for a few minutes?". My eyes skipped to her face, absorbed a pleasant smile, and back. Why is she showing me this? Couldn't she have just asked me? What a dumb way to.. Then, the realization dawned. She was dumb. Literally. "Uh-oh! Sure, sure.. No problem!". We switched seats. "Thanks a lot :)", her mobile told me. "You're welcome..", I mumbled, mouthed.
Comprehension, in total, was sinking in, slowly, and I started seeing images. If I could not talk the way I do now; No cracking those p(h)un-ny jokes. No flashy, sarcastic comments. No bathroom-singing. None of those stupid, irrelevant-yet-engaging arguments with friends. No retorts to regret about later.. No telling out my name if asked for! No speaking to Mom/Sis over phone! No cheering-shouting across the ground while playing. No whispering to a neighbour in class. Neighbour.. I looked at her again. More images, more thoughts clouded my mind.
"Tujhe dekha toh yeh jaana..", a bold, young voice shook me from my dark reverie. It was a little boy, and his sister with a pair of cymbals. I looked into his pitiful eyes and the underlying appeal. His brass voice, the carefree singing held me. "..Ab yahaan se kahaan jaaye..", his voice cried. All I had with me to give away then, other than money, was a packet of Hide'n'Seek. The reaction I received from him is etched in my memory. His tiny face immediately blossomed, his eyes lit up and he gave me a huuuge smile which I've ever since preserved in my pocket. What would I not give to see that expression again! "PEr enna?", somebody enquired. "Prasanna". "Schoolukku pordhullaya?". "Inniki school ille", he gave a broad smile. "Tujhe dekha toh yeh..", they trolled on. His voice faded out ever so slowly, the void filled again by that quiet neighbour.
The contrast was what struck me. The song and the quiet. His voice and her lack of it. Her world of absolute silence and all the bustle in his, in ours..
"Can we switch back again?", her mobile nudged me sometime later. "Sure! If you don't want the window seat anymore..", but this time I replied with my mobile. That drew a faint smile on her lips and she thanked me again. Slowly, we started to chat. People around us stared as we texted away, killing time. I learnt, and was surprised in the process, that she was doing her B.Com in Chennai; that she was a Buddhist, from the very beautiful land of Arunachal Pradesh, has three normal siblings, and that she aspired to be an airhostess! She gave me a lot of food for thought, my neighbour.
We both got down at Bangalore City and she was received by a friend. Even as the loudspeakers kept announcing the arrival of my train, I was again buried in a barrage of voices and images. My mother's words and some of my friends'. Those conferences, campaigns, rallies and summits I read about in newspapers. I wondered. How histories had been made, are being made; by speeches, by the voices delivering those lines. From Cicero to Caesar, Washington to Lincoln to Hitler to Churchill to Kennedy, Gandhi to Nehru, Luther King to Mbeki to Feynman; all had a voice that stood out. A voice that argued and amassed; stirred and inspired; led and motivated; explained and reasoned; touched and soothed millions and millions. A force, a voice.
I watched on as my silent neighbour vanished into the crowd, conversing animatedly with her friend in a rapid sign language..

"I need a voice now..", Pentagram started trickling down somewhere in my mind.


Merin Mandanna said...

I have many, many thoughts running through my head right now, have so many things to say..but I don't suppose I can put them down half as well as you have!
LOVED it. Beautiful article. And very thought provoking!

adithi said...

that was beautifully crafted..the comparison u drew was brilliant and there was something so genuine and innocent about the whole article..
cheers and looking forward to more such posts!! :)

basicinstinct said...

God macha!
Is there anything that you can't /don't do?

Vinay Hegde said...

Put them all down and send them accross!
Thank you :)

Thanks! Yeah, me too :P

Thanks :) but I didn't expect that!

Vinay Hegde said...

*across :P

deepti said...

tat was brilliant!!
u made me hear the unheard..:)
just fantastic vinni!! waiting for more such posts..!!:)

thripurasundhari said...

*CLAP CLAP CLAP* (a standing applause)

..for the calm meditation of years that gave mellifluousness in her silence and the hide'n seek packet that beamed a smile... 'n of course the 'idea' mobile ad. ;)

Vinay Hegde said...

The unheard eh? :) Nice.

! :D Thank you.

Pubu Jayaram said...

Thought provoking indeed.Perhaps we need instances like these and blogs like yours to realize how lucky we are.

Anonymous said...

Very good post..
Really touching...

sudarshan said...

It put a smile on my face...the smile which only innocence can invoke.Thanks a lot!:)


Vinay Hegde said...

Hmm, lucky we are..

Thank you :)

Yeah, I can see that smile in your profile photo :P

Akshata said...

You hardly ever write and when you do, the result is a feast! :)
I wonder which side of your brain is more evolved..the right or the left. Or does yours possess another partition in a fourth dimension?

Vinay Hegde said...

I'll try to change the first half of your first sentence :P
Thanks a lot for the second half! Glad.. :)

Chaitanya said...

Stud le! :) Very nicely told.

I don't want to imagine a world without voices, too scary, so let it be.

you-have-a-cool-chick-I-have-a-grandpa look? Henge adu? :P

Vinay Hegde said...

Thank you.. :)

Such looks are quite common here considering the divine ratio :P
I'll try to show you when I am there :D

Boneywasawarriorwayayix said...

And that is why you are ANNA-varu...

maj said...


Vinay Hegde said...


I see.

Anu said...