America the Quiet

at 11:43 PM

The leaking tap punctuates the uncomfortable silence in the house. A sudden movement distracts me and I see the two squirrels vanish as quickly as they appeared. I get up to check the tap, change my mind and proceed to make myself a cup of coffee. The beeping of the microwave punctuates the still air. The house makes an unsettling noise. It must be another cold wind.

I am uncomfortable with silences. They sound unnatural and sinister to me, the calm before the storm. The country I grew up in did not teach me how to deal with nothingness. India taught me how to navigate through a sea of people, how to tune out loudspeakers blaring music early in the morning, to categorize the cacophony of sounds from outside -- cows mooing, cycle bells ringing, cars honking, kids laughing as general background noise and to carry on with my day.

Growing up in India did not prepare me for the austere quiet of the United States. I finally get up to fix the tap and turn on music. After a decade here, I am yet to completely make peace with the absence of chaos.

The particular form of chaos I miss the most is sound. The sounds of human life functioning, the little bits of people's lives that filter in because people speak too loudly, the lack of complete silence. I miss all of these.

The very first time my mom visited me in America, she asked me where all the people were. She was as shocked by American suburbia as I was the first few years. After spending my 20s in this country, I am now slowly growing comfortable with the absence of human voices, in my car, on the road, when I am alone at home. I am told silence and meditation are good for the soul and so I try and other days, I just turn up the volume on the radio as I drive.

With a Perspective, I'm Ramya Sethuraman.

Ramya Sethuraman is an accessibility engineer at Facebook, has written two books and lives with her husband and two children.

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