30 September 2004
An image followed me relentlessly today. It was part of a dream. And I can make no sense of it. I must have fallen asleep briefly – there is no other explanation for it - while reading in the afternoon.
I’m waiting for a concert, perhaps it is part of a Carnatic Music Festival here in Paris. I have great expectations from it as if it will mean something significant for me in an intensely personal way. The evening comes. Almost everybody is seated in the concert hall. I’m nearly the last one to enter. The musicians are introduced; they tune their instruments - a benign assurance of something splendid to follow or the usual preface to the recital. There is near perfect silence and the stillness of anticipation. The vocalist mentions the ragam and the talam. It is Ritigowla—one of my favourite ragams—it’s going to be a beautiful evening, perhaps one of those rare lustrous moments that leaves its lingering glow on the humdrum ones that follow, making them easier to accept.
And then, soon after, I hear nothing. I’m slightly perplexed. I wait patiently for the silence to melt away. It remains. It is too complete, absolute and unremitting to be real. I look at the musicians: the singer, the tambura player behind him, the mridangist and the violinist. They are all performing but I hear nothing. I focus on the vocalist. From the expressions on his face, his lip movements, his shake of the head, his absorption, his keeping of the talam with his right hand by thumping on his thigh, I know that he is singing the composition. I look at the people around me, watch them. I know they can hear and seem to be enjoying the music. Why can’t I hear anything? What’s wrong with me? I stuff my index fingers into my ears, pull them out and repeat the act several times in order to clear my ears. No sound enters. I discreetly clap my hands before me but the clap is a mute gesture. I clap a little harder. I hear nothing. My neighbours glare at me. I look at them bewildered.
I shrink into my chair and press hard against its back to contain the incipient panic. Then I close my eyes hoping that if I shut my eyes my ears will open up. Guardedly, I thump the right armrest of my chair with the open palm of my hand and, as I do so, I incline my head to the right to catch the sound. Silence—thick, seamless. At first there is confused fear, then agony, anger and gut-wrenching frustration with each passing silent desolate moment. I sit there petrified in my soundproof, soul-negating world. Delirious panic seizes me as I realize that something that can make me feel exquisitely fulfilled can never be mine even for a moment.
The memory of this horrible dream circled inside my head the rest of the day, potent and untiring. Leaving me as enervated as the other one I keep having where I am ceaselessly engraving a script on invisible walls. Why? Because I want to record and save memories but that is not the way to do it. The nervy etchings that a sense of loss makes cannot nurture future moments. I know that, yet I persist.