Silence of the Speech

“I have often regretted my speech, never my silence.”    -Anonymous

I want it, NOW!
I want it, NOW!

Every day, en route to office, I pass by a large display panel beaming the day’s quote. Having digested the daily offering for a month or so, it struck me that the compiler is as fond of anonymous quotes as he is of solecisms.

I am myself amazed at times at the stunning wisdom these sayings can put in your face.  Thus, breathless with beating the clock to my desk, my eyes rested on the above aphorism one fine day.

As a child, tugging at my father’s sleeves, I often lusted for a toy train set or a carom board and pleaded as hard as I could with silent eyes. I invariably returned with a book containing religious stories for children with my patron beaming at my precociousness.

Growing up further, I wondered at my unabashed peers who merrily bawled out their heart’s desires, in and out of playgrounds and classrooms, even to the females of the species, to my utter horror. What bemused me more, they had their way, most of the times.

I wonder if father would have agreed if I had asked him to put me in school ‘X’ where all my friends went instead of school ‘Y’.  Back at the college, I simmered in silence at the guts of the cowboys who asked the girls out and were suitably rewarded.

Countless meetings, assemblies, seminars, discussions and assessments stare back at me, begging the reasons of the silences I bore at particular moments, which have had lasting impacts on the runnels of my life. It would bear nothing short of a time machine to reverse the irreparable damage that the odd moments of speechlessness have gifted me for the imaginable eternity.

Having trudged the golden railroad of silence across the years, I have naturally failed to mumble the two simplest syllables ever known to the mankind, ‘Yes’ and ‘No’, at the most opportune of the times.  They, who could have delivered me from a lifetime of pain and chagrin, agitation and annoyance.  Rather late in my life now, I am inclined not to adhere to the course of wordlessness any further.

I often remember late Shri Narasimha Rao, the most underrated Prime Minister of India and one of the greatest proponents of the art of silence in recent times. I hope I am not off the mark if I say he retrieved this nation from the brink of a certain disaster, circa 1992. His regime is rightly reckoned as the watershed of liberalization in the Indian economy.  In his death, he was refused entry to his party’s portals and the hallowed crematoriums of New Delhi. It is said that the corpse of this potent yet silent diplomat who once  wore the crown of India was left half-charred on his pyre. They were all convinced that the man who scarcely opened his mouth as he lived is unlikely to breach the silence in afterlife.

As I retraced my steps back at the end of the day, I smiled at the panel which still held the message. If the light were never to be followed by darkness, we would never know the meaning of light itself.


  1. That was a profound read – silence is often misinterpreted and misused. But I wish our revered PM breaks his prolonged silence and finally acts like a leader of the world’s largest democracy!

  2. Silence is one of the hardest arguments to refute…..In today’s world where cacophony rules, silence is the need of the hour.
    But as Purba said, silence can be misunderstood at times.

    1. One of my most favourite quotes is, ‘The rest is silence’ (Hamlet: Act V Scene ii). I am not unaware of the virtues of silence. Not for nothing I am trying hard for meditations. Yet, the world appears to be a complex mixture of endless games (think group discussions!) to me and at times you remain silent at your own peril.

  3. You are a prime candidate for the post of PM of India when you are habituated to remaining silent. 🙂

    In Tamil we have a saying that roughly translates into : the child that cries gets to drink milk.
    So your observations are perfectly correct!

  4. the power of No – yes so imp but so difficult too at times
    silence – i have wondered too why have i suffered those bouts of silence at most crucial moments

  5. I think that each one of us our inner way of being that is right for us. We can look at others, envy thenm and wish that we could be like them, but if and when we can accept ourselves, our being different, it changes our relationship with others as well. So if being silent is part of real you, why not?

    1. Welcome to One Grain Amongst the Storm, Sunil.

      I have a feeling that one of us has missed the string somewhere. Speech can be silenced but the same may not be true for emotions.

      @joshidaniel: That’s a sign of a successful man.

      @Sujathasathya: Sometimes the heart simply fails to muster up enough juice no matter what your brain is telling it!

  6. Those closest to us often know what our silence means (perhaps that is why they are close to us) and as for the rest, it does not matter.

  7. this is such a profound read. after a lot of blog surfing i find something this interesting. i did not know about Narsimha Rao’s incident, i feel bad about it now. i think one should atleast be respected post life as we hardly respect living beings…..and by your post i wonder why should some like you stay so silent, you voice the right opinion 🙂

    thank you visiting my photoblog, you may be interested in The Blunt Blog more

  8. Insightful read. Left me pondering on the deep role silence has in our lives, both in the positive and negative way! 🙂 And, that was some banking in it, with liberalization and Narashima Rao, that’s also valuable for me 🙂 🙂

  9. Profound read! Thanks! @gowardhan well said! @sujathasathya you may be surprised to know… everyone has such moments in their life!! @Sridevi Datta right action/utterance is pertinent! Love you! Jyo

  10. Often misunderstood for cowardice but I believe silence is strength if it is mindful. And I don’t think the virtues of silence should be brought into the power of saying yes or no, though saying no is the toughest for me as well.

  11. A wonderful read, Uma. Like light and dark, there’s a balance between silence and speaking one’s mind, and I think every person has to determine the happy medium that feels right.

  12. Uma, I can’t say I’ve ever regretted being silent, but I have certainly never regretted my speech. Over the years, it’s won me many a lively conversation and a good friend.

  13. So many profound statements in this post. My favorite:

    “Having trudged the golden railroad of silence across the years, I have naturally failed to mumble the two simplest syllables ever known to the mankind, ‘Yes’ and ‘No’, at the most opportune of the times. They, who could have delivered me from a lifetime of pain and chagrin, agitation and annoyance. Rather late in my life now, I am inclined not to adhere to the course of wordlessness any further.”

    I get that.

  14. A wonderful read US. Ah yes, I share your appreciation of understanding over time; rather than the quick inundation of words we are often assaulted with these days.

    Your tale of Shri Narasimha Rao’s half-charred body was fascinating. Magic as always.
    Cheers, ic

    1. Many thanks for concurring, Ian. What you say is so true. The bit about Rao is rather a bitter truth,

      Thanks for appreciating too!

  15. It was as if I was reading about myself. Till date, my father tell people very proudly that I never bawled and stomped my feet as a kid. I was very undemanding.
    I don’t know if that was a good thing. I should have given my parents some hard time.

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