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HindustanTimes Thu,24 Apr 2014

The sound of silence

Maninder Sidhu, Hindustan Times   January 22, 2013
First Published: 11:03 IST(22/1/2013) | Last Updated: 11:04 IST(22/1/2013)

Maybe I was the only one looking forward to the short family road trip and others hoping to be on a flight. The town left behind, I chose the sequence of the CDs that would play background music to the scenic journey. Not before long, I was the only rapt listener to the rapturous medley of numbers playing in the car. Doting parents who get anachronistic blues when their cherished delights turn out to be their progeny's ordeals will understand my pain.

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I was not expecting, gala picnic, joyous tapping of feet, swaying of the heads, clapping of hands or humming along from my young fellow travellers. However, there was not a sigh.

The music, loud and clear, was falling on "plugged-in ears". If the iPod had the better of one child, the other had cuddled up in the seat, all wired to the upgraded PSP. Every now and then, a mobile phone sang its own popular melody to add to the variety of the music playing inside the car. I switched off the player to watch the silence of blaring music around me. It was broken when my nephew began humming unconsciously the number bombarding his eardrums from the MP3 player. Thank God for this sound of music, even if it was a bit husky.

The Simon and Garfunkle classic "The Sound of Silence" began echoing in my thoughts, as we drove along. The music and rhythm of life had been freaked out by facility. Perhaps this karaoke generation would one day unplug to enjoy this deep song: 

People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence.

Even as the children humour my protests with the disarmingly relevant "why this kolaveri, kolaveri di?" chorus, memory goes back to the days of frugal but well-partaken treats of music. The mates who sang in class and the gung-ho members of the school chorus have not faded as icons in the precious memories of childhood. The countdown to "Apki Pasand" and "Binaca Geetmala" on the Urdu service of All-India radio seemed endless each day, not to mention how cacophonous the static of the radio seemed when an elder switched it on to catch some bits of the daily news on BBC.

In my village, music was the food of life, served only on weddings and similar celebrations. Two cots on terrace to elevate the loudspeaker is a sight beyond the imagination of the present generation. Far more beyond their Internet reality would be people from villages nearby thronging the wedding venue to listen to gramophone record and admire its spin.

The run-ups to all school and social functions were occasions for a breathless confront with happiness. The hustle bustle of activity that dressed up the scene would only settle upon the arrival of the muse of melody. When all was ready and about to take off, the much-awaited sound of "hello, hello, mike testing" almost made the heart skip a beat with loaded anticipation.

The writer can be reached at manindersidhu7@gmail.com

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