This is a video from my ride home after open house.
If you’re up for it, play this quietly in the background as you read. This is what my evenings often sound like.
Silent is not a word used to describe Mumbai.
This is not a silent city. Nor is it still. However, as I mark my first month here, silence and stillness define my time.
Maybe it is because of the never ending sound and movement. I think it is me instead.
At night, sitting in the strange corner of my 3rd story kitchen counter, window open, I can watch the fruit bats awkwardly maneuvering on branches 20 feet away. It’s like watching turkeys try to fly. Below them is a small building. And old woman lives there with her husband. She sits outside on a plastic chair and watches the fruit bats too. We’ve only made eye contact once. She looked up and caught my eye. We both startled, awkward. Now we carefully watch the night and the fruit bats, instead of each other. I close my window quietly, so as not to disturb her.
Much of my non-school time is spent like this, in silent spaces within the noise of a city that never, ever stops. I take great pleasure in the balance. Yesterday I walked the streets in the evening, stopping to browse a bookstore called Title Waves, and buying 100 rupees of sunset coral gladiolas. I smiled at the stares and giggles of small children and ignored other, less friendly, looks. When I got home I poured a glass of wine, sorted the flowers into a water bottle, resolved to purchase a vase, and set about rearranging my living room. Alone with the faint honking of rickshaws on Hill Road.
These silent personal spaces are what I recall from moving to Kanazawa. Afternoons walking my new neighborhood, marveling at discoveries, getting lost, going days without real conversations. Evenings spent dripping with sweat as I stood watching ducks in the rice paddy out my window. I didn’t think about it as a choice, just accepted it as inevitable.
Now I notice that there is a choice to be made, to reach out and make plans and fill my time with people.
And I will. Eventually. But for now I am moving slowly, enjoying my silent period like a child thrown into a new language. I am watching. I am listening. I am enjoying the freedom of choosing silence. And though I am solitary, I am not alone. The grandfather on the balcony across from mine waved good morning today. I smiled, waved, and we went about our rituals. Later the grandson giggled at me as his grandmother brushed his teeth. We exchanged the smiles women share over the heads of children (and men).
I have the entire city for company.