How far will you go to seek silence? People take to the hills, seclude themselves in caves or in cloisters with monks who have taken a vow of silence.

A few months ago, a friend attended a 10-day Vipassana meditation course during which he was banned from, among other things, talking. It surprised us, as he is highly articulate and sociable. Attending the Vipassana session seems to have made him come to terms with a few unfortunate years in his life. All he needed to do was find the connection within himself, which he could only do when he shut out voices, including his own.

Suddenly the buzz is about silence; Pico Iyer, the world’s favourite travel writer who lives in a Japanese village for the freedom to be himself, marvelled in a recent article that people are willing to pay top dollar to stay in hotels in remote areas without access to television or the net.

I laughed too and thought, “How absurd! Why can’t they just switch off the telephone or TV?” But apparently cutting yourself off from distractions is very hard for most people. You have got to be truly rich or very stubborn to allow yourself this luxury. It is not as laughable as it might seem.

Quietitude is the greatest gift that we can give ourselves at least once a year. The time away from the disturbing demands and dull drone of daily life heals us. We do not need to make plans or resolutions; it is a time to just be still and let our undisturbed selves find their way back from the jumble.

Photo credit: Asha Thadani/ Raintree Media Features

 I do not need to go to extreme places for my quiet time; I find that in Goa. I would suppose that most sensible people would, though we seem to be outnumbered by the party animals. Luckily, these visitors are seasonal and restrict themselves to a small belt. There are others who have moved to Goa from big cities and seem to want to party through the year. Perhaps they go elsewhere for their quiet time.

I do not have a television at home here, newspapers are not allowed, though special interest magazines are permissible. Books are the treasured companions. I do have my laptop that I use for my writing and editing work. I log in to the world only to send the finished pieces. As the mobile signals seem to connect only in certain parts of the house, I leave the phone there on silent and reply only to urgent messages. Most days it is only the poi guy or the man on the ferry that I talk to briefly.

So here it is, at least for a few days in a year – I don’t want to talk about the latest cricket disaster, I don’t want to know if Anna is fasting or breakfasting. I want to water the plants, pick fruit, inhale nature’s aroma, walk alongside the sea or the lake, feast my eyes on the clearest of skies and worship the Sun for its life-giving warmth. My definition of ASAP in Goa is ‘as quietly as possible’.

By Sandhya Mendonca (Sandhya Mendonca writes a weekly column for the Herald Goa)

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