I’ve been living in a city for some time now. The city I have lived in, is like any other—busy, crowded, pseudo-purposeful, full of chaos, and hurried. While no one looks at the clouds above in a city, they exist. Even though no one acknowledges the forgotten trees that abound, they stand quietly in the background and provide some much needed survival-support. Hurrying and scurrying no one would appreciate the gravel beneath their feet, however, it stays and witnesses every thing that people step on. I’ve lived in a city for so long that I am accustomed to its “busy” methodology of functioning. It is never still. Even at night, the city plays itself out. It brings out that black cocktail-dress and adorns itself with diamonds, ready to have the time of its life. While the music is toned-down a little to let some sleep, and turned-up a little to let some others jive; it does so every day, unrelentingly. A city, in its entirety, never sleeps. It just goes on and on. In my opinion, the major competition that a city would have, would be from a river. A city is like a river. I feel like I have lived in a noisy river for so long now.

One day, I was going through my daily routine in the city without much introspection. Occupied by the cares that seemed oh-so important, I got through many a chores lined up for me. Suddenly, I heard a screech in my head and all the voices around me got sucked out and were drowned into an old bronze lamp. It was like someone, turned the “volume” knob to the left and right down. I couldn’t hear anything around me—not the buzzing of the crowd; not the chatter of the newspapers; not the loud, appealing cries of fashion; not the pleas of the hurry that beckons; and not even the murmuring of the worried voices in my head. The sound system of the city just conked off. For me. This happened a few days ago.

Ever since, I can’t hear the city around me anymore. However, I am able to hear other things I never could pay any attention to while I was engaged to the unavailability of this city. Now, I can hear the birds chirp outside the window when I wake up in the morning. I can hear the water from the shower dance on and slide down my body. I can hear the soft flutter of my clothes on myself. And as I walk outside my home each morning, I can see the whole world zoomed out and I look at it from an outsider’s perspective. I can see the green, fresh reflection of the leaves in my building garden; and as I see them, I hear the ruffle of the leaves and their songs as they make oxygen for us. I can see creatures—pigeons, dogs, cats, crows, and even rats—make their way around all of us. They’ve been living a life of their own while we go about our lives on-the-go. I can hear the trains in the distance; and I can hear the stories that journeys have, however small the journeys may be. I feel like a spectator in a crowd of chattering, freckled, engaged people all around me; only that I can’t hear their banter, nor can I hear their worries, I can only see them smile. And they smile often. I plug my ears with the music on my phone and I can’t hear the music or the lyrics. I can only feel what the songs were once—they were once feelings. Ask me what songs I have been listening to, and I wouldn’t be able to tell you. Instead, I could tell you the story behind them. I could tell you how a song throbs with a life of its own and I could tell you its story. I wouldn’t be able to tell you anything technical about a song. When I am with people, I can’t hear them speak to me. I can’t gather their words. I can only hear their heartbeats when they talk to me. I can hear what their hearts tell mine. When I find a heart not tuned to mine, I hear God telling me why. There are always reasons for people being the way they are. There are no “bad” or “out of tune” people; they are just misunderstood in the din of the city. I can’t hear the traffic screaming; I can hear the pulse of a workforce returning home. I can’t hear two people fighting; I can hear their hearts feeling misunderstood.

The river that this city is, I can now hear the water running its course; steady and pristine. I can hear the undercurrents, those that used to be drowned when the “volume” was up. Every thing is more pronounced and more definitive, in a beautiful way—just like God meant the Earth to be. Every single natural entity is its element now. The chaos that I always knew has now been sliced off the top of the city-life. I feel like I live in the subliminal layers of the life I have been given. Somehow, I feel that instead of going down to reach the subliminal level, I have been risen to a state above the clouds from where I can see the life around me. The volume-cancellation has done me a world of good. I can feel myself exist now. I feel like I have a meaning to be here. I can hear my own heart beat too. I feel like I walked out on the chaos and walked into myself.

It’s like I walked into someone else’s dream; and then, I realise, it’s my own dream.

– Sameen