Life so different when you are asked not to speak

Last month, I finished my talking session of the day on Zoom and realized that something had awfully  gone wrong. I felt terribly exhausted, with my chest becoming tight. I experienced a voice fatigue that I never experienced before. I stopped talking and told my wife that I am switching off my mobile, going to bed and be in isolation.

I called my ENT specialist Dr Wagh next day morning and sought his advice. He patiently heard my story. He said “Dr Modak, I can sense a serious strain on your vocal cords. You must stop talking now for a while. You will take some time to recover. It’s a case of Vocal Cord Disorder (VCD)”

“Give your voice complete rest?” Dr Wagh’s simple advice was so impossible for me to follow. My profession depended on speaking. So, I told him to give me a bit more practical advice. 100% compliance to the regulation on No Speaking sounded like expecting 100% environmental compliance 24×7.

“Well Dr Modak, your limit to speak in the day will be 60 min and at any time you will not cross 5 minutes of speaking. Learn to live life this way for a few days now. May be even for a couple of weeks”. I realized that Dr Wagh didn’t want me to be foolishly optimistic.

I reviewed my lifestyle and noted that I was speaking for at least 6 hours a day! Wow, staying in the limit of 60 min was going to be a challenge.

The first thing I attempted was to assess whether my 6 hours of speaking in the day was really needed and was it really worth? After some pondering and self-assessment, I came with following conclusions

  1. 20% of my speaking was spent during various seminars and panel discussions. The talks that I gave were hardly making any difference. I could have easily abstained from such speaking invitations.
  2. I could have saved another 30% of my speaking time if I had delegated my work and let my colleagues handle the assignments.  There was no need that I had to present in every discussion.
  3. Calling friends and discussing topics such Coviod-19 pandemic, shortage of vaccines, impact of the lockdowns etc. was taking another 20% of my time in the day. I realized that was really no point to talk about these topics and “voicing” concern as these talks were not going to make a difference.
  4. Finally, I realized that I was spending at least 10% of time in talking to people just to be nice.

I was happy that a rationalization based on above, would mean that I could manage living life within 60 minutes a day of my talking time.

With such a rationalization done, I sent a What’s App message to Dr Wagh that I was complying.

But the strain on vocal cords wasn’t going away that easily. There was slow improvement despite the speaking embargo. My school mate Dr Shubha who specializes in speech therapy came to rescue and I started following her “lessons” sincerely.

In the process, I learnt that there is a need to have a quality called patience in life. Results do not have to come overnight.

Having a trust was also important. My google searches had taken me to many articles that pointed to possibilities of a throat cancer in such symptoms. But my trust with Dr Wagh and Dr Shubha was strong and solid like a rock.

With less of talking happening in the day, I had now more time with my mind. I gave that “extra” time to understand relationship between mind, body and soul. In the introspection, I made several discoveries on my obligations and relationships and understood a bit on the purpose of life.

Couple of days back, my doctors told me that I was now alright, and I could gradually get back to my routine of 6 hours a day of speaking. With some conditionalities of course!

But I wasn’t quite excited with the green signal. I wanted to speak only when I should.

I called my Professor Friend however to tell him the good news in “my own voice”. I described to him the transformation in me due to compromise on speaking and the benefits of silence or following Maun.

Professor heard me patiently and as usual, explained the deeper side of Maun. He also talked about Vipassana meditation. He then said in summary.

“Dr Modak.  Being silent means, you stop speaking both “outside” and “inside”. Silence increases the strength of the resolutions and controls the impulses of speech. Silence is internal austerity. In the moments of silence, new secrets of the inner world are revealed. And that’s what you experienced.

Moments of silence are inspired by the divine with new mysteries of nature. That’s why sages practiced Maun in mountains and forests and in seclusion”

He paused for a while and then told me a story of meeting with Holy Highness Dalai Lama in Dharmshala. Professor was one of those fortunate who could get a one and one meeting with His Holiness .Professor asked him a question “Highness, what is the purpose of living?”

“And what was his answer Professor?” I was very curious to learn.

“Well Dr Modak, he didn’t speak. He just smiled”.

While Professor started elaborating deep meaning of his remaining silent, I was thinking that may be His Holiness was suffering from the same problem I faced – the VCD!

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  1. I have seen Vinobaji on ” Maun” long time back. He was just listening and writing answers on a slate plate.. You are talkative as it is and it will be certainly difficult for you!

  2. I don’t quite agree that you are talkative. Problem actually is that you have such rich experiences and so many insights based on those experiences which you must absolutely share, that your talking becomes imperative. Now the only option is for you to write more and that should not be a problem for you since u r a natural writer and story teller. Miss talking to u😊

  3. Two quotations occur to me : one “There is no school better than being alone (ekaant) and no teacher better than silence (maun)” and the other a line from a poem “O Solitude, where are the charms that sages have seen in thy face”. Which one connects with you ?

  4. Very insightful! Silence outside AND inside is the key takeaway for me. Most often when we are outwardly silent is when the internal dialogue is at its peak and that drains one out more than any external interaction. Training the mind to be quiet is the ultimate achievement I believe.

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