Arts & Culture

Neruda’s ‘Keeping Quiet’: Introspect & Count Up To Twelve

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Pablo Neruda’s ‘Keeping Quiet’ was not just a Grade 12 CBSE poem, it was a warning of the times to come. A reminder to pause and look within. 

The silence today is eerie. Stranded lanes, empty bars, ghastly workplaces, and we will all keep still, we are indeed still, silent; locked inside our homes. What once bustled with gossiping, constant chatter and business deals, remain locked. Our words have found a new place to stay, Houseparty, Zoom, Google Duo, Google Meet, Whatsapp Video Calls, is this how we digitalise India? for once on the face of the earth, let’s not speak in any language; Restricted activity, inactivity, hibernation, let’s stop for a second, and not move our arms so much. A probable gigantic ‘World’ War III suppressed by the actions of a 120-nanometre virus. 

“Bengaluru Thinks COVID-19 Achieved the ‘Impossible’ as Streets Show no Sign of Traffic Jams” It would be an exotic moment, without rush, without engines; divided by the lines of religion, caste and class, today all of us struggle, one with their ‘mozzarella and cheddar,’ while the others drink off of the street. We would all be together? Just not in a sudden strangeness. The impending doom of mass unemployment, recession and hunger, who says we did not see it coming? A single catastrophe had to befall the world in order to expose its fallacies and inequality. 

International relations and global politics are at an all-time high, Trump’s threats of “retaliation” against India for not clearing exports of the drug to the States. Trump withdraws funding of the WHO amidst a global pandemic. Hinted to be a bio-weapon in the hands of the Chinese, those who prepare green wars, wars with gas, wars with fire, over 1,37,000 lives lost, victories with no survivors. 

Restlessness and inactivity dominate the larger part of our days, scrolling and scrolling, binge-watching and gorging, have we confused our lives with total inactivity? The futility of man takes the baton, what is life without social interaction, chaos, the hustle and bustle of Delhi Metro? What is our purpose beyond a degree and job? When was the last time you painted the old building visible from your terrace? Or baked the cake you so desperately want to devour? 

Our productivity, rat-race, the desire to achieve more in a time dedicated to silence, to inactivity; management books write, ‘how to utilise your free time,’ ‘how to be ahead of others,’ ‘how to fall into the hands of capitalism,’ If we were not so single-minded about keeping our lives moving, and for once could do nothing, perhaps a huge silence, might interrupt this sadness of never understanding ourselves and of threatening ourselves with death.

The earth today seems dead, New York dugs another mass burial as the numbers of lives lost climb the ladders. Perhaps the earth can teach us as when everything seems dead, a time shall come, in the near future, when we would look back, think of the scary uncertain days, crawl in the corner of a room and be thankful that humanity survived; and later proves to be alive.

Global warming, climate change, brutal capitalism, exploitation of human right, wars, sheer injustices, is it time to introspect? Introspect the futility of falling prey to the norm of society? Introspect the futility of human relations, corporations, survival at the cost of nature? Now I’ll count up to twelve and you keep quiet and I will go.

Featured Image Credits: Economic Times

Anandi Sen

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