The Sounds in the Silence of Malnad


I have come to the thota for its quiet and it has largely satisfied my need except for a few sounds that did bother my ear, and I thought let me make an account of them, in the order they come to mind. There was the sound all day long of the pump from the neighbor's thota that traveled a far, far distance to us. And the chugging of our own pump that came from the plantation tank, and the sprinklers that worked on the patches before the bungalow: you could hear the patter of the spray on the leaves and the jets when they hit the trees that blocked their trajectory as they slowly did their turns.

In the afternoon three men came from Hassan to install a dish antenna and fix a cable connection for the television in Yashas' room. Their phones rang quite a bit sounding cinematic ring tones. Two painters worked on the outside, lacing sound with caustic smell: they are in the last stages of putting the final touches on our bungalow. The older of them has a way of speaking without stopping in a low mumbling tone which surrounded my wall-facing desk while I tried to read and write. The other painter had plugged his telephone to the power point when we came to the thota from Bangalore two days ago, and it was belting out a Hindi song in metallic polyphonic quality. He unplugged it without delay when he saw me but there was no fear in his eyes, or guilt, I'm thinking for the word to describe what I saw in his eyes. Surly, I think.

Yashas has a habit of storming in and speaking loudly, and excitedly, and I am guilty of having been cool many times this trip. It is evening as I write, and the insects are making their piercing sounds, rising and falling, round and round and round—they'll keep it up all night, of course. Till five minutes ago, for an hour, Sujaya and the writer's wife were washing metal dishes and there was the continuous sound of metal clanging and of water pouring on them. (A writer is a supervisor on a plantation—in case you didn't know.) His Doberman barks all the time because the writer has taken to keeping the dog tied up so as to make him ferocious. I did not hear the dog that Sujaya heard barking continually last night, until 3 AM, she told me, and from far away to the south, and then she heard a sound like a gunshot after which the barking ended. As I reach this part of this piece Sujaya has left the kitchen, gone to the store where I heard boxes rearranged, and now she is upstairs working the electric switches.

I thought the explosions I heard in the morning between six and seven were dadakis to keep the elephants out of someone's plantation. No, my neighbor Basavanna told me, they are sounds from the quarries, carrying to us from several kilometers away.

Did I mention the cries and the songs of birds? Walking in the plantation, I stopped and listened to them time and again today, and yesterday. In the evening, there was the sound of drums from Anegalalé village. They were a match for the character of the thota, and I stood outside the bungalow under the swollen moon and tuned my ears to the beat.

I showed too often my displeasure regarding many sounds in the last two days, and I have driven Sujaya to her limit with my complaining, and now she has not spoken for an hour. She has cast a silence so deep which I cannot bear, and I am anxious thinking how long she'll take to break it. In the meantime I am taking relief from the other sounds she is making. She closed a cupboard now.