The Silence of the Scrolls

Image credit: Jan Steiner
Image credit: Jan Steiner
Image credit: Jan Steiner

It’s been a while since the nightingales sang in the darkness, fidgeting on boughs swaying in the night-wind. It’s been a while since the fingers splattered on the keyboard like an impromptu rain.

There is this dike thin as rice paper, holding back rivulets of waste and repentance that I dare not let loose on my patrons. Yet I must insist the thread that airs the lungs is silken but, the dew in the eyes real and the aviary abuzz.

Forgive me then, if you stopped by this blog and heard no strains, found no wind nor rain on the dusty panes. It has all been here all this while, though more as a forgotten tongue than skinned lungs.

What follows today then is not the next chapter of the story that I had set forth to finish in the month of May, and we are well-nigh into September, but an aside that is a reminder of the music that can be heard only when the last scores have been sung by the tribesmen, of notes that have the foremost claim on our existence if we must be a part of the flock and earn the requisite grease day after day. Life forces its lessons upon us till we are a part of the lessons.

I remember one of the first adages I came upon early in my life was imparted by my beloved father who is now just a memory on a wall. It was a source of immense surprise to my tiny brain that only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches! The wisdom set me thinking for days as I kept staring at the shoes of the folks and their faces in quick succession, trying hard to imagine their respective agonies till I came upon a man crushed like a cane by a lorry on the blood-soaked tarmac. It was a ghastly sight to the pair of father and son and even as he hastily withdrew me from the infernal vision I was seized by the revelation that only the crushed could know how the wheels of lorry grind the body. ‘Sad, but true!’ my guardian sighed. I had taken the premise to its logical conclusion.

No, I am not setting up a preface to blame my friends (and foes) for my woes, naturally unimaginable on their parts. Besides, he who sleeps will have nightmares too, the meaning of which will be lost upon the rest of the flock except the astrologers among us. The long and the short of the anecdote is that some pains are not worth dwelling upon, or burdening others with their unsavoury constituents.

I am, of course, referring to the mandatory periodical uprooting, or ‘transfers’, as they are innocuously referred to, and the inevitable severance from places and people one comes to bond with as humans, and the consequent crash-landing on alien anthills. It is a common enough fate for certain classes of servants, but the latent calamities it wreaks upon each member of their families is as different in shape and texture as the mincemeat produced by hit and run rendezvous on freeways.

Unfortunately, there is no way to determine whose mincemeat wins the trophy for being the most remarkable over the rest. That said, mine has manifestations of a coma that has blunted the tip of my pen temporarily. But, as the Terminator said, I’ll be back! Remember, I do not belong to these strings that twirl me like a marionette.

With that brief caw in the deepening nightfall, I wish to leave a scratch on the soot of silence, and leave with a promise to return from a pernicious future to correct the course of my scrolls, and attend the unfinished businesses on One Grain Amongst the Storm.


  1. I stopped by a number of times and heard no strains… I don’t mind the silence of the pen, dear friend, but the silence of the heart is what tears me up. Kia Kaha! – as we say over here in this backwater – Be brave! Love. Bruce.

    1. I had to search the web for Kia Kaha!. The thought that you’ve been calling upon this desolate webspace time and again emboldens the little thing in my ribcage here. Thank you for being there, Bruce!

  2. “Life forces its lessons upon us till we are a part of the lessons.”…. what a gem this post is Umashanker… and that sentence is the most captivating of all.

    I have not been visiting your blog… and today, after reading this absolutely lyrical post, I’m asking myself why.

    It is early morning now, not even seven. Reading this has set the mood for the rest of the day. I’m so pleased i read this. Thank you for writing this.

    You are an extraordinary writer. Your style is like nothing I’ve ever read before.

    May your pen never lose its point nor the ink ever dry. Glad to be back!

    1. An endorsement from Dagny is like golden rays through the smog. Thank you for those scintillating words of encouragement —I’m going to reread them to tide over my fits of despondence. May God bless you!

  3. a scratch on the soot of silence indeed.
    the wind & rain are constant companions, alive in your well-rested keyboard & again ready to wash the dust from those panes

  4. Uma, I’d been wondering about your recent disappearance. I had an inkling it was job-related. Thanks for this lyrical reminder of your commitment to your blog and your art. I, too, have been somewhat absent lately, but summer and pleasure have been my excuse.

    1. I am touched that you asked that, Sabyasachi. I am planning to wrap up the story in two more installments this September. And I am looking forward to watching those videos.

  5. I visited your blog after a long time. I totally agree with Dagny about you being an extraordinary writer. This should have been your calling right from the very beginning. Well written once again. But then I am not new to your impressive flow and superb thought process. Please tell me one thing. Can I read your blog on my Kindle also. How? if possible.

    1. I’ve been missing your readership for a while now. Thank you for your kind words. You can read One Grain Amongst the Storm through RSS feed. The feed url of my blog is

      PS: I have this ‘All-New Kindle Paperwhite’ in which if I go to settings (the three horizontal bars to the right) and start the ‘Experimental Browser’ I can browse my own website.

  6. Ah ha! So that was it.
    A few days back, I did think of messaging you to ask you how you were doing and when we’d get to read the rest of the story. Honest. 🙂 (I was secretly hoping you were working on a thicker volume 😉 )

    I came here hoping to read the next chapter. But you know what, USP — I’m NOT disappointed. Wow! that is some way to explain the hiatus.

    Happy settling in, USP. Enjoy Indore. 🙂

    1. It’s comforting to know there are friends out there who’d be concerned if I vanish. At the moment I am a bit jaded —for a while I wanted to title this brief scroll ‘Return of the Jaded-Eye’ but I found the title has already been used elsewhere! 😉

      Anyway, I assure you I will never scrimp on the story. Expect major installments and conclusion in September. And hey, thank you!

  7. Umashankar, your “scratch on the soot of silence” is so eloquently written! I love your first paragraph with images of nightingales “fidgeting on boughs swaying in the night-wind,” and “fingers splattered on the keyboard like an impromptu rain.” I have been busy and very remiss with my own writing and I am behind in keeping up with my blog so I completely understand. Life calls to us with other plans. I will look forward to the time when your scrolls are silent no more. 🙂

  8. This is a beautiful piece of prose written in poetry —–which tells us to wait for short intervals in your IB visits —-will wait for you to complete your engagements and oblige us again with your writings —Ayesha and the rest are still holding our interests alive

    1. I find it hard to write poetry so I I write prose! I am a tad miffed at my inability to light up this corner. But then I have a date with my readers before the September fizzles out this year.

  9. And I wondered how long would it be till the other ‘tugs’ kept you from your story…Till then we shall wait for the story teller to resume his seat 🙂

  10. Now that’s a post that leaves you wanting more. I thought this was a lyrical start to another episode but turned out to be a philosophical musing worth reading.

  11. Beautiful Umashankar. Nice to read you words again after long. I myself was caught up between the cogs of the corporate machinery that owns my hide and my creativity ground away that forced me to beat the retreat from social media and creative pursuits for a few months. Glad to see my absence has not caused me to miss out on the lovely story. Looking forward to it being resumed.

    1. “Corporate machinery that owns my hide…’ Few can sum it as deftly as that! In my case though, the machinery seems intent to convert the hide into cowboy boots, assuming I yield the acreage. I am grateful for the continued encouragement, my friend.

  12. Nice to read you after such a long time. Even though this post is not the continuation of the story I expected, was glad to hear the strains again. I will not wish upon you to write more or continue the story which you left quickly, because the writing that shines through when the moment is right is different than one when it is an obligation that has be to fulfilled.

    1. Ah, the right moments and their blessings, and the clutches of obligations! Rest assured, my friend, only the best of the strains will be echoed around here.

  13. Fantastic sensory details as always!

    By the way, this is Brantley of the Brantley Blog (which kinda fell by the wayside). I just wanted to reconnect because you used to be a follower and I wanted to share with you my new project: The Story in the Frame. It’s an artistic collaboration between myself and my girlfriend (a photographer). I’m writing short stories about her photography now!

  14. Just revisiting this desolate space and wondering where you are? and how you’re doing? and if you’re coming back? and hoping you don’t think we have all abandoned you!

    1. Thank you for visiting me in this night. I will return to my prayers.

      “For me, writing has always felt like praying, even when I wasn’t writing prayers, as I was often enough. You feel that you are with someone.” ~Marilynne Robinson

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