“Silence and smile are two powerful tools. Smile is the way to solve many problems and silence is the way to avoid many problems. Wishing you a many silent smiles” – read the message sent by my friend Aishwarya. As a reflex i replied asking “What about silenced smiles?” to irritate my friend, like always. But it dint take much of a time for me to realize that the whole idea of ‘silenced smiles’ had its root somewhere else and was not an instantaneous creation of my mind, just to irritate my friend Aishwarya.
Friend Atul Tiwari had come to Manipal as a guest for a fest our institute had organized. He was to talk on ‘Play and Screenplay’ on the second day of the fest and was more or less free on day one. Atul expressed his desire to meet Vaidehi (one of the finest Kannada writers) I called Vaidehi and told her that i had a surprise guest for her and asked her when can i get the guest to her place. She asked me who it was and when i told her it was Atul she said “God! come right away”
Atul and i sat comfortably on the new set of furnitures at Vaidehi’s place. As Atul was drinking water, i was inquiring Vaidehi about the new furnitures. Meanwhile Atul’s eyes were arrested by the huge framed poster of the SAARC literary meet, which hangs on the wall at Vaidehi’s place. Its a poster which has individual photographs of all the poets who participated in the meet the year Vaidehi represented Kannada language. The poster was designed by SAARC and distributed to all the poets who participated that year, said Vaidehi to Atul. Pointing out at one lady poet Atul said “She passed away recently” and Vaidehi saying “Yes, i got to know” told us how that lady poet would clap and say “Wah-Wah” loudly when she liked some poem and said “I used to admire her because she was openly expressing herself”. Adding to it Atul said “Even Kaifi Azmi’s wife also expressed herself loudly when she was in a mehfil or in Prithvi theater watching a play. She was not only loud with her appreciation but also in her criticisms” continuing the flow of speech Atul said “Kaifi Sahab taught her to laugh loudly and express openly and not laugh with her hands covering her mouth”
Suddenly a new door had opened in my mind. I had never seen the act of covering the mouth while laughing by girls as a symbol of chained freedom. Before i started reflecting over the new insight, Vaidehi reacted to Atul’s words- “While we were young we would get scoldings if we spoke in a loud voice or laughed loudly. if done so, we would be asked to behave like a girl. Being expressive was considered as a non-feminine gesture. So our speech, our desires, our pains, our laughter and also our smiles got silenced”. My world went so silent then that i could hear distant ocean roar and also hear the heartbeat of all the fishes swimming in that ocean.
That evening i spent most of my time in the fun-fare (organized as a part of the fest) with Nayana and Sana Anjum- two extremely expressive and ‘loud’ friends of mine. Their expressiveness and ‘loudness’ appeared differently that evening and since then has had a different meaning.
26 October 2008