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Silence fast

By Nickunj Malik - May 04,2016 - Last updated at May 04,2016

Fasting means depriving yourself of food and drink for a sustained period of time. Mahatma Gandhi, also called the father of our nation India, was an enthusiastic follower of this; he would go on a fast to oppose any inhuman behaviour that he saw around him. The civil disobedience, and the Quit India movements that he started against the British Raj, had him go without eating for days on end.

It was a very effective tool of protest, as it did not involve any violence other than that to one’s own self. It baffled the oppressors and completely confused them. How could they punish someone who was already punishing himself? So, without a single bullet being fired, India got freedom from its former rulers, more than six decades ago. The partition of the country and the bloodbath that ensued later, is another story altogether. 

Though I believed in the effectiveness of the concept, personally I found it very difficult to, well, not eat. However great my intentions were about fasting, come meal times, I needed to have food. I trained myself not to over-eat but I could never get myself to not eat.

Thus, abandoning that idea, I decided to go on a silence fast, which seemed so much easier to accomplish. What this meant was to take a break from speaking and generally becoming quiet. The fast of silence was different from sulking, where like all the women of my tribe, I stopped talking because of a real or perceived slight. This, on the other hand, was a voluntary act of becoming dumb for a specific interval to, sort of, calm your inner self and increase your mental strength. 

Contrary to the peace that I was looking for, almost immediately the problems started cropping up. Used to my incessant chatter, my husband was the first to react in horror at my going dumb. His initial worry was that I was distressed about something and I had to go into great lengths to explain that I was not upset. It was not easy to do because I had to mime out the entire exercise. When I could still not get the message across I grabbed a pen and paper and wrote it all down. He was not convinced even though my detailed explanation covered both sides of the writing sheet he had provided me with. Shaking his head in disbelief he left for work, forgetting to straighten his tie. Before I could point it out he disappeared from the front door. My silence fast prevented me from shouting aloud, so I kept quiet.

Thereafter, I spent a long-time reading the newspaper from cover to cover. It also gave me an excuse to not speak with anybody. Suddenly the sound of the ringing telephone rendered the air. My spouse was on the line. 

“Hello, listen,” he began. 

I nodded my head at the receiver. 

“Are you there? Hello?” he repeated. 

I picked up a pencil and tapped it on the phone.

“Our daughter wants to come home,” he explained. 

I tapped the phone twice in excitement.

“Should I book her ticket?” he asked.

I tapped repeatedly in response.

“No? Ok if that is what you want,” I heard him saying.

“Yes please,” I spoke up. 

“But didn’t you tap a no?” he wanted to know. 

“No, that was a yes,” I exclaimed. 

“Dumb response,” he muttered. 

“Don’t call me dumb,” I protested. 


“Don’t become one then,” he responded.

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