This short story by Asha Jyothi explores the tensions between a middle class girl, and an apartment guard who has to sit quietly and do his work without too much stimulation. How do they view silence and sound? How do their class relations play out in this scenario?
6:15 in the morning. Amala’s negligible bodyweight was resting under the comic yet brooding, orange yet solemn Dastkar Ranthambore tigers. On the fluffy yet firm memory foam mattress. What can be more precious than silence when the faint glow of quotidian, life-affirming consciousness gently exterminates the meditative eroticity of the fantastical dream-state. For Amala, suspended in the luminosity of that hazy wakefulness, silence was also a simple, essential pleasure to burrow into before scurrying through the ceaselessly unvarying turf of the work day. A work day that wouldn’t brook a breakfast any more substantial than a Valencia orange eaten in an almost-tolerable-because-air-conditioned Vajra. Unless the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Fairy Godparent added 20 buses to the route stretching from Whitefield to Central Silk Board, ferrying the probability of a vacant seat out of the realm of wishful thinking. Yes, standing in a Vajra, where the long-standing tradition of morose apathy makes silent, eye-contactless commute the preferred social norm, is still better than sitting in an Uber Pool sedan, where the altered vehicular dynamics necessitates a general openness to conviviality bordering on social engineering.
Silence. Luxurious. Inflation-proof. And hair-raisingly elusive in a freakishly reflective concrete box with four concrete boxes for permanent company all around. In less than an hour, it would start. An old old woman making the rounds with a blue plastic carton brimming over with spinach, fenugreek, coriander and some other green oddly named red amaranth in English, but locally known as harive, keerai or rajgira. Amala didn’t know it at all. What she knew was that age was no bar for the vocal projection prowess of the keerai woman, if she heard that right. Some other man of indeterminate age riding a moped with an engine whose continuing existence had to be illegal, but who follows the edicts of the bougie Pollution Control Board when the pay for delivering milk is even more diluted than the milk itself? A baby bawling from the East. Another baby’s mother out bawling that baby from the West. Boys and girls from all compass points being babies about going to school. They were all still sleeping, except for the probably Bihari, but probably also North-Eastern guard posted at the ground level garage, at least 2000 kilometers away from the village he learnt how to talk, walk, chew and spit in.