Saturday, August 09, 2008

In Search of Silence

Come Wednesday August 13th and I am on a 10 day long sabbatical from everything that I am associated with and have been so far in my life. I will be in Igatpuri, a small town which lies between Mumbai and Nasik and whose primary claim to fame is the Vipassana Research Institute.

I call this a sabbatical and not just a break because during this period, I will not only have no access to Internet, Mobile and other forms of communication but I will also have to maintain total silence. 10 days without speech/noise does sound rather stiff, I concede, but then if you have volunteered for a programme, I guess you better abide by the rules. I distinctly remember Amit telling that I speak much more than an average girl speaks in her life (no stereotyping intended) and so the challenge seems just that bit more intimidating!!!!

When I announced my decision to do so, there were all kinds of reactions. Some folks wondered why I would want to subject myself to this torture (getting up at 4.30 AM is also part of the rules); some said that would like to know from me how it feels once I am back so that they could also plan a trip;some wondered if I were not crazy to do so and how my office gave me this leave; some felt that it is too early to venture into such a but most people were of the opinion that I should go for it, it was just that they did not either have the time or the inclination or initiative to try this out despite all the good feedback that they had received.

So, why am I going? Honestly, I do not know; this was a decision taken on an impulse. Mind you, since I first read about it in the Holy Cow by Sarah MacDonald, I have been intrigued by the idea. But there is always a huge gap between conception and implementation; the flights of fantasy need wings and it just does not come that easily. Since arriving in Mumbai last October, I, Kunal and Infy have discussed it many times but have been postponing the idea, so hopefully, my trip will spur them on. I guess that on many an occasion, what drives people is their pursuit for meaning in life, advocated by Viktor Frankl, the father of logo therapy.

The pursuit of meaning in life is quite abstract and is not something that someone can explain with logic and analysis because each of us has a different purpose and the discovery of the same comes at different stages. You don’t need to be 45+ to start looking for it; searching for it when the energy levels are high and the passion to explore new territories is there is more important. Age can never be a limiting factor in our search for truth.

Of course, this is not to say that you take a 10 day silence period and you learn the truths in life; I would be kidding myself if I were to even suggest that. However, it is important to listen to myself and try to answer some of the questions that I have been asking myself for so many years now. I have experimented with Reiki, Transcendental Meditation, Raja Yoga and a few other alternate paths but somewhere keep losing track of all these paths. But a traveller should never stop; sometimes, the destination may not be very clear but it is important to ensure that the travel continues. There are many sign posts but we need to identify them and move ahead.

Every time, we introduce each other, we relate to our profession and describe ourselves accordingly – I am Pradeep, a banker who works in XYZ Bank. Funny,we seem to be confusing our lives with our means of livelihood. We need to ask ourselves what is it that we want to do in my life and not what is it that we want to do for our my livelihood; these are totally separate things. Are we confusing our lives' goals with career and personal goals?

If we don’t live for our profession,we live for our family or for things that we derive pleasure in but the soul's craving seems to have gone into hibernation. I guess something from inside always asks questions but in the din of everything around us, we just don’t seem to listen to it. We have, unknowingly, suppressed the inner voice and maybe, just maybe, this short period of solitude will help in throwing some light on understanding the destination.

We met many people who seem so restless with their lives and live empty lives – going to office and coming back and servicing their families but the joy seems to be lost. Life can be quite a taskmaster, I guess, and the small things in life have suddenly flown out of our lives. Will the Vipassana trip make a difference to my life? I do not know but it is still an attempt to try to make a difference in my life which is ambling around Interest Tables, Pricing Controls, Fees, Parameter changes and all those mundane things that make up the life of a Business Analyst in my domain.

The world will be the way it is and we may not be able to change it as per our needs and this leads to a lot of inner turmoil and frustration. We cannot change the world but we can change is the way we face the world and its trials and tribulations. Eventually, I believe, that we need to meet our karmic destiny and there is no running away from that- can we be ready to take responsibility for our lives and not blame others for our problems? All sounds too snobbish, expecting so many things to happen just by keeping quiet but then there’s no harm in attempting to change when you know that you need to, otherwise you will anyway be the sufferer.

And then, finally, escaping from the cacaphony of the urban madness called Mumbai (could be any other urban decay) is necessary once a while to retain your sanity. You cannot reflect back when you drive in fifth gear; you need to slow down ..... 10 days of serene silence can never harm anyone, can it???


  1. Congrats on volunteering yourself for this sonny.

    I did not do such a rigorous thing-but I went for Art of Living course- it was a little difficult with office and all but the satisfaction of completing it was worth the effort. I am sure you will come back with more answers than questions. And I wonder why Amit says that about you? “I distinctly remember Amit telling that I speak much more than an average girl speaks in her life (no stereotyping intended) and so the challenge seems just that bit more intimidating!!!!” Did you tell him that you have taken after your mother? :D

  2. Thanks, Mom..Ya, maybe I have taken her after all; forgotten those small family things…Looks scary at the outset but then better a challenge than none at all…

  3. Surely, the best thing u haf ever written.. or something to which I have been able to relate… Hope I could haf understood this earlier n would haf accompanied u..

    U haf a gr8 time..

  4. Read your blog. I don't want to comment whether you decision is good or bad, right or wrong, late or early. One thing is sure, it's a very brave call.

    I remember having a similar experience when I was working in mines during my stay in Siemens (sometime in December 2000). It was something that was forced on me that time. I was just out of college, spent all my earlier years with family, friends and suddenly was thrown in this darkness. The only company I had in those mines were the switch boards and the LEDs that used to blink before me and the sound of huge conveyors all round. I used to enter the mine at 9.00 and used to come out at 1.00 for lunch. For 4 hrs not a single soul around, only way I could communicate with outside world was through walkies.

    It was those days when I realised the importance of silence. Silence there was not absence of sound, since the place of work was probably one of the noisiest working places with all conveyors and crushers etc., but Silence there meant absence of any distraction between me and myself. I have spent hours in those mines talking to myself oblivious of all the chatter patter of the machines around me. It was in those times, I took decisions which changed my life, e.g. doing my MBA, marrying etc. I spent hours there in introspection trying to find out the true meaning of life (I have not found it still :-). The first day I entered the place I was suffocated being a claustrophobic person, but by the end of first week I myself used to volunteer for that role and used to smile while entering the techno cave.

    I never had any opportunity like that later, I dont think I'll be able to take a decision that you have taken.

    Sorry for the long mail, but your blog set me thinking. Go ahead friend and have a wonderful time with your best friend, and trust me it's great fun realising that your best friend is actually you yourself.

    Good luck and i'll be very eager to know your experience once back.

  5. hey man...brave call....i have only heard of it from someone close and what u experience there..let me know about your experience...Vivek