It’s the Age of Silence!
Sociologists and anthropologists believe that the human race has
reached the highest point of civilisation. In the modern era, we are
surrounded with hi-tech gadgets such as mobile phones, laptops and
hands-free phones. All the time, we listen to music. Even when we
travel, we use earphones to listen to our favourite songs. Gone are the
days when we talked to fellow passengers in buses and trains. Instead of
talking, passengers prefer to doze off until they reach their
We are living at a time when there is a serious breakdown in
communication between husband and wife, parents and children, teachers
and students and voters and elected Members of Parliament. By not
talking to others, we are trying to live in our own worlds. Once an
elderly man confessed: “I’m sandwiched in silence. My father used to
talk to me all the time. My mother, amidst household chores, talked to
me while narrating beautiful stories. However, my son doesn’t talk to
me. He is always talking to somebody on the mobile phone.”
Talking seems to be going out of style, not only at home, but also at
workplaces. Colleagues no longer crack jokes and exchange their views on
the cost of living or gossip about their wives and children. They are
eternally glued to the computer or the telephone. What happened to the
past generation who talked all the time, and produced a silent
Out of the four skills in learning a language, speech is the foremost
factor. Writing, listening and reading come very much later. Talking
shaped our lives and sharpened our oratorical skills. If you look at the
face of a talker, you will see marks around his eyes and mouth. Children
who talked incessantly licked their lips gleefully. It was a beautiful
Philip Gunawardane had an
As children, we used to look at the faces of great talkers who had
declarative, interrogative or compound sentence faces! For instance,
Philip Gunawardane had an interrogative face. He used to question the
validity of everything starting from democracy, sociology and communism.
He used to analyse social problems clinically and raised hypothetical
questions, expecting the audience to answer them. He talked so
convincingly that most of us thought he would end up as the Prime
Minister. But that was never to be.
Not only living people, but also the authors we used to read began to
talk to us through the printed words. Dostoevsky, D.H. Lawrence and
James Joyce talked to us on politics, love and many other topics. When
they put questions to us, we used to write the answers on the margin of
the page. Such annotations cannot be made when you read an e-book, can
you? When Sigmund Freud came up with his psychoanalysis, most of us used
to lie on Freudian couches to talk to him.
Lust for knowledge
Today’s children grow up with a lust for knowledge. Not being
satisfied with what they learn at school, they attend numerous tuition
classes to broaden their knowledge. But those who were born in the
1930s, 40s or 50s grew up hungry for talk. They always talked to their
parents, siblings, teachers and even strangers. The modern generation
has to be taught how to talk as they think talking is a waste of time.
About four or five decades ago, children and even adults did not have
enough money with them. During the vacation, children used to go for
long walks without a red cent in their pockets. They walked miles and
miles, quenching their thirst with water found in Pinthaliyas kept at
strategic points in most villages. Good-hearted villagers provided them
with lunch and tea. Villagers loved to talk to young students who mixed
freely with them. When it comes to romance, talking took precedence.
Young men and women used to talk for hours “whispering soft but
nothing.” When they were unable to meet, they used to exchange love
letters written neatly and scented. Today talking and love letter
writing have been replaced by short messages sent on mobile phones. Can
anyone fall in love without talking? It’s a near impossibility.
Is modern education responsible for our silence? For instance,
students are asked to accept victory and defeat in silence, with what
the Greeks called “apatheia.” When they speak, however, they take words
not singly, but in groups as if they are speed-reading a passage.
All this makes one wonder whether talking has lost its credibility
and glamour. Has it been devalued like money and sex? It may be that we
are gradually passing the Age of Talking and fast joining the Age of
Silence. Perhaps the Talking Age like the Stone Age will not come back.
As one writer put it succinctly, talking is like the Impressionist
period in the art of living. Today we are living in the Age of
Abstraction which is equal to the Age of Silence.