Mumbo Is Jumbo

Of Silence

Silence.
It goes out carrying a knife.
Not a samurai sword.
But a knife.
Less conspicuous. Conveniently deviant.

I hated its lack of discipline. I couldn’t predict it. As a kid I remember clapping in the shower, tapping my foot on the wet floor as the soap slid down my body. I hated the silence. So much that it had to be me, and only me, that killed it. Not nature, not some famous dude on the radio, but me.

There was an old piano in the living room of our first house. An old soul. On most evenings, I would hear it waking up, complaining like an old man as my dad settled down to play. But even that sounded beautiful. I would crawl down under it whenever my father played and lie there with my eyes open, basking in the silhouette of the parting sun as I felt my restless body slowly sinking up into the ancient wood.

I crawled under a lot of things. But the rusty old piano in the living room was my favourite. The creaky old bed in my grandpa’s room came at a close second. I especially liked to crawl under it when he was just about to fall asleep. He would toss and turn, trying to find a soft spot and I would listen to the creaks and the woody whines. It’s a child’s dream to have such a haven, a place where you hear everything you can’t see.

When I was about six years old, we moved to a new house. Our piano came with us and we gave it a very special place in our new shell. I couldn’t wait to lie under the piano once again, caught in the tension between the familiar above me and the novel below me. But I was to find out that something was terribly wrong.

“The C note”, my father cried. Unfortunately, the movers had not been careful enough with the old musical contraption and the old man had lost a tooth. One key somewhere to the right on the mundane assortment of ebony and ivory had stopped making the ‘C’ sound it was supposed to make. A tragic silence had replaced it. I couldn’t care less about what letter had gone missing. For all I cared, the key looked like one of those those giant statues on Easter island.

Dad never got it fixed. He just avoided it most of the time since it was on the extreme right and he used it mostly for high pitched embellishments. But there were moments when he would get carried away, stimulated by the rising music, and stumble upon the silent key. Under the piano, I would feel his muscles tense up in silent disapproval and self-reproach. Then, he would move on.

When I was around 8, I found myself before the piano everyday. No longer under it but at a useful creative distance. I too stumbled onto the silent key a couple of times. But then I got used to it. In fact, whenever there was a pause in a piece of music I was playing, instead of making my arms briefly hover in the air, I would press down on the silent key. It became my “thing”. I started treating silence like sound, like another note. And in time, I fell in love with it. And just like that, the kid who hated silence was tricked into falling in love with it by some divine force acting through a couple of careless movers. It became forever clothed in the delicate colours of sound. It’s nudity covered, it became a safe haven for my childhood. A place where I could hear everything I couldn’t see. And I didn’t even have to crawl in to find it.

9 thoughts on “Of Silence”

  1. This is so beautifully written! I was captured till the apt ending of ‘…..and I didn’t even have to crawl in to find it’
    Keep writing, Stefan. The Lord has gifted you with this 🤗

    Liked by 1 person

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