I feel so privileged tonight , after spending an elegant and refined evening listening to Rumi's poetry and having an erudite gentleman discuss the finer, deeper nuances of each verse and image. Nawab Mir Jaffar Imam has spent most of his 72 years imbibing the essence of Rumi.... in Persian. He has translated a great deal of Rumi's 60,000 plus poems into Urdu , and English. After a traditional high tea, we settled down on a terrace, and surrendered to the Nawab saab's voice and words...
This appeared in Mumbai Mirror
Mein Chhup Rahoongi….
“ Raise your words, not voice…
It is rain that grows flowers,not thunder.”
Next week, we have been invited to what promises to be a divine evening dedicated to Rumi. The timing couldn’t be better. Raised voices are drowning out civilised conversation and intelligent discourse.Everybody is yelling and shouting these days. Not just Mamata. I grew up in a household that featured six highly opinionated family members ( sigh! It’s in the genes… what to do?). Our daily dramas were , how do I put it – rather animated and very vocal. Laryngitis became a constant condition. Which wasn’t such a bad thing. Alas, I was forced to modulate my voice when it started to do the disappearing act a bit too frequently. The ENT surgeon I finally consulted, told me my condition was caused by voice abuse, which in turn had created nasty little nodules on my vocal chords. This was serious. Suddenly, the decibel levels got automatically reduced. I discovered the beauty and power of silence. This happened years ago. But it was an important turning point. These days, I rarely raise my voice even though there are innumerable times when I’m tempted to do just that. But I can’t! My vocal chords protest too much.
With International Women’s Day next month, there will be the usual seminars and workshops. And giddy, boozed up events for women, by women, of women. Most of these sham , self- conscious gatherings generate nothing more than a temporary feel good emotion that rapidly wears off the moment wine levels correct themselves. After the brief euphoric high , for a lot of enthusiastic participants, it’s back to keeping mum. Shutting up. And putting up. Personally speaking, years of anguish, angst and annoyance later, I am at a stage when I am asking whether shutting up is such a terrible option. I think not – and kill me for saying this. Strident, shrill female voices are as off putting as body odour. There is too much body odour around these days. I think of a woman like Aruna Roy and marvel at her gift – Aruna is one of the most soft spoken activists in India. She doesn’t need to raise her voice – her message gets through loud and clear regardless. Aung San Su Kyi showed the way decades ago.Then I think of one of my girl friends – a happier wife and mother would be hard to find. She declares proudly that she is a homemaker by choice. When she speaks, her voice smiles. It’s her grand mother’s training she says. As a young girl, she was told by her naani to practice just one thing for a contented, stable domestic life : during an argument, keep quiet, listen keenly, stay calm and smile. Once the other person’s anger subsides, open your mouth and say what you need to. My friend follows the advice scrupulously. I also remember Chef Anando’s experiences in Thailand, when he stayed with local families and mastered Thai cuisine. He told me, the one thing he learned during that period was to speak softly at all times.He said the Thais never yell out to anybody (not even a child. They prefer to go up to the person and address him/ her with respect and humility. Anyone who has interacted with the popular Chef , will confirm this – Anando runs his kitchens fabulously well without ever hollering at minions.
And I think of my mother, yet again. She was an outspoken lady, alright. And unambiguously feisty. As was my grand mother. You really didn’t want to mess with these ladies. My father used to say, “ Aie chha raag tichya naakavar.” That’s pretty hard to translate, but broadly speaking it refers to a short fuse. Despite that trait, I don’t recall any major blow outs at home that brought neighbours into their balconies . There was dignity and restraint in her anger. Anger provides a much needed safety valve. Especially for women. It’s how one expresses anger that separates the girls from the women. You can keep the thunder.
I want to be the rain that grows flowers… not quite there, yet. But trying…