Monday, 15 June 2015

The Right To Silence

This weekend, we decided to go on a road trip. So, after hiring an SUV, eight of us set off on a road adventure. The first few hours passed blissfully with everyone chatting merrily. But soon one could hear only one's own voice and didn't know whom to address because everyone was talking to everyone else. As the bout of talking ceased, we started withdrawing to our own worlds; some retired to their phones, some stared out the window while others started snacking.
There are some things which happen almost all at once. People sometimes have a tendency to think alike, and we are often influenced by what others are doing and start doing the same thing. I got my earphones out and started browsing through my playlists. Almost simultaneously, three of my companions took out their headphones. One of us had one of those tiny speakers shaped like a soda can. Music wafted through it, a lot like a fizzy drink would have, had the can been what it represented. Immediately, everyone hounded the guy with the speakers.
"Play this one. I have such an awesome collection!"
"This is that famous Beyonce track. The one from the Grey movie!"
"Forget all that. Play Kailasa's songs."
And the one who had got the speakers started regretting it instantly. A few of the songs were played while others couldn't see the light of day. Finally, the owner of the speakers decided to play his own songs and started playing them loud. Everyone else lost interest and went back to their headphones. Suddenly, B in the front began to bleat and cry. On closer inspection, we realized that he was singing. So immersed was he in the song that he couldn't hear Y sitting beside him, asking him to shut up.
"I can't listen to my songs. Will you please stop singing?"
He took one plug out of his ear and yelled, "What?!"
Y reiterated her problem. He put his earplugs back on and started raving louder than ever. Someone at the back had taken cue as well. C was trying miserably to imitate the song she was listening to and ended up spoiling the experience for everyone. Y turned around with a dangerous expression on her face.
"You too?!"
But that was to no avail. Soon, two more joined in the braying and the cacophony threatened to impair the hearing abilities of the rest of the company. When asked to stop or ordered to 'put an end to this drama', they replied that their freedom of speech was getting curbed. Y fumed. I advised her to use some earplugs herself. But she was not an easy person to assuage.
"If that is their right to sing, their 'freedom of speech', this is my right to not be sung to, my right to silence! I can't stand this!"

Image Source : musical road trip had weirdly turned into a battleground for rights. No one knew how to solve this conundrum. How can the right to sing and the right to not listen to songs coexist? Who was impinging on whose rights? Even though B's right to sing appeared more valid, Y's right to NOT listen to B sing could not be undermined either. Being a minority, Y's voice could not be heard. And the right to remain silent or the right to avoid songs was an ambiguous right no one had heard of. Those of us who were neutral just didn't know how to go about it.
A vehement debate ensued. We argued and fought while the serene hills and fields flashed past the window. Before I knew it, nearly everyone had hit the sack within an hour. I too was snoozing, my hand over the seat cushion. An eerie quiet pervaded the car now, like that of a battlefield with slain soldiers after a battle. Suddenly, I heard a tune followed by some words. It was a very old song, of the time of my parents'. The driver had made the best of the situation while everyone was exhausted and asleep. He was playing his favorite song, exercising his right to music while everyone else was utilizing his/her right to repose.

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