Time Capsule | Ft. Absence of Voices
Time Capsule is back !
This podcast episode (and essay) is something really close. I hope you like listening to and reading it.
Around this time last month, I was on a long 14 day trip with a group of my closest friends from college. At some point, I’m going to tell you that story and what an emotional adventure it was.
For now, what you need to know is that I found incredible joy in merely listening to my friends’ voices.
I’m at home now.
I sit in this tiny room in the corner of a balcony. I have a desk. There’s a separate internet connection. I work here. This is my space. This is the place I’ve spent most of my time - not meeting anyone, not going out, socially distancing, during the pandemic.
An observation that has kept occurring to me at regular intervals during this time, is the realization that most of my days involve a lot of silence. I would speak very little and I was quiet most of the time. It’s a stark contrast to the trip that was only a month ago (feels like a year).
The monotony of my life in the pandemic can be summarised easily - I would wake up, have breakfast. Make some light conversation with family. Head to my corner room, login to classes, disconnect from audio and go around doing something on my laptop or phone. Some lunch in between and those rare occasions where I would pick up a novel. Maybe once in a while, I would participate in some debate related activity or there might be some college meeting that I need to attend. At night, have dinner, again some conversation with family and go to sleep somehow. The day repeats.
Of course, I would try and keep in touch with friends. I would talk with them sometimes i.e. communicating via WhatsApp. Sending memes, GIFs, links, brief texts and long formatted messages.
But most of my day is spent not talking. I think I’m really bad at reaching out to friends and people in general. There’s a lot of thought involved. What would be the right time to call? Will the person be busy? Is there really something to talk about apart from how messed up CoVID is? I somehow end up calling after a lot of overthinking. We would occasionally have video calls. Sometimes I would meet a friend in person. However, the spontaneity that I had grown used to in interacting with people was lost and I was living days filled with a silent void.
It is an odd realisation to have, a bit spooky too. I would become acutely aware of this deafening silent space that I’m occupying right now.
I am a quiet person, atleast I like to think I am. I don’t mind those moments where there's a long period of awkward silence and I’m really comfortable when my environment is completely tranquil. Paradoxically though, me noticing this silence is a bit saddening. It is weird and haunting. When a phone/video call is done with my friends, or after I’ve met someone close and I come back to my tiny room, I’m reminded of the absence of all the different voices from my life right now.
When I’m quiet, I am generally quiet around people. The silence is around a community. I’m at the mess having dinner and listening to my friends bawling with laughter. I’m listening to a story and thinking about how the pitch and tone escalates when my friend reaches the tipping point of that story. I’m at the basketball court, listening to all of the calls and shouts people are making - to shoot the ball, to pass or to defend. I’m in a hostel room playing Risk and listening to that friend roaring in rage after being betrayed.
There are these peculiar antics and behaviors that are connected to people’s voices. The awkward pauses, while someone is talking. The hidden vulnerability of your voice when it quivers, while sharing something personal. The clear hesitation when they’ve thought of a joke too dark to say out loud. There’s always that one friend you know who has different voices when dealing with different people. A polite voice with teachers and shopkeepers, and the original voice when they’re chilling and hanging out with you.
It really is weird, that in thinking about these voices that I’m missing, I’m reminded of the tiniest things. I’m reimagining and creating all the scenes I was a part of in my mind.
The general chatter in classrooms. The cries of students asking the teacher to end the class. And, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but even attendance. Have you ever noticed the different ways in which people respond to their name being called out. There’s the person who sleep-talks while answering the call. You have people saying Yes, Present, I’m here. Some shout. Some whisper, and the teacher needs to recheck. Of course, everyone’s snickering inside when an obvious proxy isn’t noticed.
(Side Note: It’s so hard for me to get a proxy, and I really blame myself for saying Present in too loud a voice that teachers notice my proxy, all the time).
While talking to my friend Sukanya one day, I ended up sending her a short voice note. She replied saying - you should send more voice notes, it humanizes the person.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a text first person. I prefer writing long messages to calling or recording a voice note (yes, I can see the irony). But I grew familiar with living quietly in surroundings filled with voices.
I’m in a tiny room at the corner of a balcony right now. I keep having recurring thoughts about the delight I felt when I hear my friends' voices but I am also melancholic when I think about the overwhelming silence that I’m in and the absence of all of the different voices that I had gotten accustomed to.
Well, that was it. Let me know what you thought.
If you liked it, please share the episode with your friends - I would really appreciate it !