Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Seeking Silence

Silence. As a child, I had always associated silence with sadness or strictness. 'Silence!', the teacher would scream, a stern look on her face, and the chatters would slowly fade away for none of us wished to be associated with her wrath. I still remember Priya Miss dropping a pin in the Grade 1 classroom at Lena School, Lovedale. 'I want you all to be so quiet, you can even hear the sound of this pin falling on the floor', she said. And that's when I truly understood the meaning of the phrase 'pin drop silence'. Silence, at that point in time, meant the absence of laughter, of joy, of life. Silence was only for the old folks and for solemn ceremonies.

Growing up, however, I think I began to see silence in a different light. Sometimes, I sought it. I began to enjoy the solitude that came along with silence. Do not mistake me for an introvert. I do like meeting people (in fact, depending on what is being talked about and to whom, I can be quite an annoying chatterbox), but I like my own space too. I have learnt that silence brings a great sense of calm to your mind, and you become not only mentally awake, but also aware. Imagine walking to a temple on the hill before sunrise. You witness the sun appearing on the horizon, you hear the birds break into the first song of the day. You're not only awake, but you also learn to appreciate the beauty of each new day. I think that is the essence of being aware.

Mother Teresa was absolutely right when she said, 'God speaks in the silence of the heart'. Last week, I spent a few golden moments seeking silence. My friend and I visited a Buddhist temple since we were curious and just wanted to explore. Having gone in, I was struck by the silence. So serene, I was afraid to even whisper lest the sacredness of silence be lost. We burnt joss sticks in front of the statue of the Buddha and gazed at the bodhi tree, raised from a branch of the tree at Gaya, under which the Buddha attained enlightenment. In the distance, I could hear the faint rambling of the train on its tracks. The temple bells from the Sri Siva temple nearby chimed in from time to time, along with the music of the nadaswaram. Cars whizzed by. Birds chirped. I could hear the chatter of people walking past the temple. Everything became sacred, even seemingly mundane things. It was like becoming a witness to the world around you. No longer struggling, no longer pushing at things. Just a silent spectator. Do not mistake that for passivity, however. Once you see things from this perspective, it's easier to play along. Suddenly, burdens seem lighter and problems become more solvable because one views them in a different light altogether. As we slowly made our way to the Paya Lebar MRT station, the sacredness of silence slowly fading into the humdrum of everyday life, I became awake and aware...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

JUBAlation

Last Saturday, the world witnessed the birth of a new nation, South Sudan. It was an historic event, because it marked the end of decades of civil war; it is the beginning of a new dawn, a harbinger of hope. A new Constitution, a new President, a new place to call 'home', promises of a brighter tomorrow, built over the dark memories of the past...

Things seem to be moving fast enough, at least in Juba. Indeed, JUBAlation fills the streets of South Sudan. It is much deserved, after all the massacres at Darfur and South Kordofan. The new nation has a long way to go indeed, but this is definitely a start. The road to progress has many challenges ahead- poverty, health care and sanitation, education, financial woes, ethnic conflicts to name just a few. But then again, every young nation faces this problem. What is important is that the people of South Sudan do not lose hope, do not succumb to despair and continue to hold their heads high. They have fought for their nation's freedom. Now that freedom has been achieved, they must realize that 'freedom is not free'.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Seeking Silence

Silence. As a child, I had always associated silence with sadness or strictness. 'Silence!', the teacher would scream, a stern look on her face, and the chatters would slowly fade away for none of us wished to be associated with her wrath. I still remember Priya Miss dropping a pin in the Grade 1 classroom at Lena School, Lovedale. 'I want you all to be so quiet, you can even hear the sound of this pin falling on the floor', she said. And that's when I truly understood the meaning of the phrase 'pin drop silence'. Silence, at that point in time, meant the absence of laughter, of joy, of life. Silence was only for the old folks and for solemn ceremonies.

Growing up, however, I think I began to see silence in a different light. Sometimes, I sought it. I began to enjoy the solitude that came along with silence. Do not mistake me for an introvert. I do like meeting people (in fact, depending on what is being talked about and to whom, I can be quite an annoying chatterbox), but I like my own space too. I have learnt that silence brings a great sense of calm to your mind, and you become not only mentally awake, but also aware. Imagine walking to a temple on the hill before sunrise. You witness the sun appearing on the horizon, you hear the birds break into the first song of the day. You're not only awake, but you also learn to appreciate the beauty of each new day. I think that is the essence of being aware.

Mother Teresa was absolutely right when she said, 'God speaks in the silence of the heart'. Last week, I spent a few golden moments seeking silence. My friend and I visited a Buddhist temple since we were curious and just wanted to explore. Having gone in, I was struck by the silence. So serene, I was afraid to even whisper lest the sacredness of silence be lost. We burnt joss sticks in front of the statue of the Buddha and gazed at the bodhi tree, raised from a branch of the tree at Gaya, under which the Buddha attained enlightenment. In the distance, I could hear the faint rambling of the train on its tracks. The temple bells from the Sri Siva temple nearby chimed in from time to time, along with the music of the nadaswaram. Cars whizzed by. Birds chirped. I could hear the chatter of people walking past the temple. Everything became sacred, even seemingly mundane things. It was like becoming a witness to the world around you. No longer struggling, no longer pushing at things. Just a silent spectator. Do not mistake that for passivity, however. Once you see things from this perspective, it's easier to play along. Suddenly, burdens seem lighter and problems become more solvable because one views them in a different light altogether. As we slowly made our way to the Paya Lebar MRT station, the sacredness of silence slowly fading into the humdrum of everyday life, I became awake and aware...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

JUBAlation

Last Saturday, the world witnessed the birth of a new nation, South Sudan. It was an historic event, because it marked the end of decades of civil war; it is the beginning of a new dawn, a harbinger of hope. A new Constitution, a new President, a new place to call 'home', promises of a brighter tomorrow, built over the dark memories of the past...

Things seem to be moving fast enough, at least in Juba. Indeed, JUBAlation fills the streets of South Sudan. It is much deserved, after all the massacres at Darfur and South Kordofan. The new nation has a long way to go indeed, but this is definitely a start. The road to progress has many challenges ahead- poverty, health care and sanitation, education, financial woes, ethnic conflicts to name just a few. But then again, every young nation faces this problem. What is important is that the people of South Sudan do not lose hope, do not succumb to despair and continue to hold their heads high. They have fought for their nation's freedom. Now that freedom has been achieved, they must realize that 'freedom is not free'.