Silence in Noise #1

Sound is sculpted in silence. When we are concerned so much with sound, music feels like being merciful to silence by reducing thickness at regular intervals. But when we live beyond the span of music, we know it is just a series of transient, instantaneous inscriptions in silence that erase their own traces as soon as their formations in time complete. This erasure leaves silence as if it were a trailing trace, making sound take the trailing instantaneous shape.
That is why cities sound like sound so full of sounds–the antithesis of silence. I love the sounds of a city–the swearing horns, the hooting sirens, the deep heavy hums of restless cars and buses, the indiscernible sounds of the voices of a million familiar strangers that don’t mean to each other. There is some aesthetic about the noise of a city. But when you live awake through the day and through the night, you will see the noise of a city has a rhythm like the sun rising and setting. The noise of a city has its beat, and the beat is sculpted in silence, and once you know this, you see and hear silence everywhere, even right in the middle of noise. Or rather noise trapped like a bubble in the vast expanse of silence.


The new slum settlement with its houses that look like mounds that have grown out of the parched earth and the tall buildings jutting into and scratching the sky out of nowhere in the background somewhere in Gurgaon, Haryana, India. Both were surprising in their own right and their contrast was striking.

It is rumored in the neighborhood that the slum has got Rohingya refugees that entered India from Bangladesh, which has no reports of official confirmation.

Slums dwellers are an unofficial, unrecognized, and unacknowledged economic class in the country. For one, they form great part of the country’s renewable resources recycling industry. The dwellers of this slum are actively engaged in one of the early phases of recycling resources recovered by the municipal council majorly from household wastes.

Students’ Protest

Part of the ongoing students’ protests against the JNU administration’s controversial 75% compulsory attendance regulation put into force by a circular dated 22 December 2017. Almost all students find the regulation debilitating to them–students don’t play absentees for pleasure but most absent students are absent for good reasons that have to do conducting their lives and that cannot be summaries in a few words. And there does not seem to be cases of total absentism–students keep in touch with teachers or their classmates to keep on track and abreast of the goings-on in the courses.

The incumbent VC, Jagadesh Kumar, has been consistently controversial (many are of the opinion that he is insistent on being so) since his “installation” at the heart of the university’s administration in 2016. The VC’s decisions and administrative hands seem to be controlled remotely be some obvious political forces he is affiliated to.

The main protest activities happen at the yard in front of the main administrative building, which was named Freedom Square during the nation-shaking students’ protests following the February 2016 events in the university campus. The small protest group in this photograph was one of the several protest gatherings on 15 February at several parts of the campus around the administrative building and the school areas, and these groups were not self-conscious–students came and joined the protest, chanted slogans and left while new students joined in, and the protests kept going.

Waiting for Dinner

Dogs waiting in front of a meat shop for their dinner. On my way back from the gym at around 10 every night, I see the butchers give these dogs some scraps of meat right before they close the shop. In Delhi, there is always a good relationship between street dogs and people within the boundaries of places specific communities of dogs specify as their territories. That relationship is one of great love. The dogs bark at any odd movements around within their territory–they behave (or act?) as self-conscious local guards.

Promila Manhas

A Dogri writer and poet with a beautiful voice living in Jammu. Literary translator translating from Dogri to Hindi and English, and vice versa. Lecturer of Botany in the School Education Department of the State Government of Jammu & Kashmir. Newscaster at Radio Kashmir and news anchor at Doordarshan Jammu.

She read some of her poems at the Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi’s annual Festival of Letters on 16 February 2018.