Sunday, Feb 25, 2018 | Last Update : 03:13 PM IST

The music of silence

Published : Oct 16, 2017, 12:25 am IST
Updated : Oct 16, 2017, 12:26 am IST

If you concentrate real hard, you can figure out the difference in the rhythm of the two seas at Dhanushkodi.

With Maari and family
 With Maari and family

Music is all that there is. Whether you like what you listen to or not depends on how much you connect with it. And silence is the resonance of enchanting nothingness. Maybe good music must have equal silence, otherwise it would just be an overpowering loud noise. Just like the space between words/paragraphs, black/white transitions in a movie or empty spaces in a painting insert a certain balance to its otherwise meaningless predisposition.


Dhanushkodi is a narrow water-penetrating stretch of land, that shares amongst Sri Lanka and India the shortest international land borders (of some 445 meters or so). Known to be a ghost-town after the cyclone in the 1960s, it had a bunch of fishermen families and scores of pilgrims when I visited five years ago. While all I wanted to ‘see’ was the sunset, little did I know that more was in store for me in a different realm of perception.

I was lucky enough to be invited to the humble home of a fisherman named Maari, whose name I will never forget. Perhaps the gratifying feel of helping a lost traveller or a random act of kindness — I would never know; but Maari, his brother and mother treated me well. Since the hut was small and had just one bed for his mother, the three young men cast ourselves on the beach outside the hut, with a clear starry sky above and a thin woven jute-mat below. Interestingly, they insisted that we lay the mats in a certain way.


And then the magic began. This piece of land cuts through the waters, separating two large water bodies. There is a vast amount of emptiness and silence, that you can’t help but embrace, until slowly you begin paying attention to the encroaching sound of waves breaking on either side. At some crucial point of realisation, you figure out the difference in the rhythm of the two seas. If you lay on the sand with your head pointing south east, in your right ear you hear the Bay of Bengal and in your left —  the Indian Ocean. The music is so subtly distinct that without the overwhelming silence it would be so hard to distinguish. The distinction however is so influential to the locals that they have even allotted gender to this daily entertaining duet. The rough dark warm waters is the Aan kadal (masculine sea), while the shy mild cool waters is the Pen kadal (feminine sea). Indeed a surreal encounter before I welcomed my sleep. For a lone traveller wanting to see the sunset, Thank you Maari for giving me so much more including the ‘the music of silence’.

(Jerin Jose, a consultant to World Health Organisation, is an avid traveller)

Tags: cyclone, waters