I was never assertive as a child, and even as a teenager, I chose to follow the road of least resistance. I thought confirming was easier than being a renegade, because for me, it was always about the people. So, I followed the majority, I followed the society. I was sure, that the loud and the insistent knew the wrong from the right. I was certain that the quieter ones knew less.
Soon, I realised that it was difficult to do justice to any work or pursuit, when you lacked the interest or the passion, but elders said, perseverance was a virtue so I persevered on goals decided by others. However, that kept me average, bored and it made me a follower of whoever was loud and insistent. After all, it was always about the people and I was certain that the quieter ones knew less.
By the time, I embarked on an independent adult life, and took new responsibilities and roles, my learning, my motivation and my reasons had changed. I had spent so long, being quiet and observant, that I had begun to understand people more and more. I began to read between the lines, notice the gestures, understand the pause, and hear the words that were left unsaid: theirs, and even mine. It was then that it dawned on me, that perhaps the quieter ones knew a lot too, but it’s just that the louder ones were heard more. I decided to listen to the quieter ones. Not that they were always right, but I gathered that they had so much to share, and not enough people to hear them out. I moved away from the conforming tendencies, and consciously went about listening to the thoughts of those who were shy, quiet, or had no faith in their own voices.
So, here I am, a writer, a media representative and a trainer by profession, and it is my job to use my words, to speak my mind, whether in print or in spoken form, but in spite of it all, I am a listener at heart. But, this time I am not confirming. This time instead of listening to those who are insistent and loud, I am more inclined to listen to those who are quiet and subdued, and to listen to those who are wary and weary, but wise in their own ways. I am also listening to those, who have unpalatable stories to tell, and perhaps, no one to hear them out. All I can tell is that I am enriched and humbled because of these stories and because of these soft voices.
It is my privilege to have completed 5 years of listening to the voices of the silent ones. I am immensely grateful to the Ministry of Family & Social Development, Singapore, for allowing me in their inner sanctum as a volunteer-mentor to teens-at-risk.
I am also thankful to Social Change in Action, for giving me access to the issues of the young through their DFC Programme and Be the Change Events.
This year, I went back to the schools in my hometown too. This is the city, where I studied till I moved away for my higher education. My love of people was nurtured here. I am grateful to the Principal of my alma mater, DPS, for allowing me to speak to the senior students of the school. I am thankful that they heard me patiently and gave me an insight to their thoughts. I am also thankful to my ex-teacher, Mr Sharma, who heads another school now, but remains open to discussing various issues faced by the teens in his school. I spoke to the students there too. In my sessions with the students, I talk about the things I have learnt through the years. I tell them, what I know. And I tell them that it’s not always the loud and the insistent ones, who decide the rules. I tell them that it’s not always the eldest who knows the wrong and the right and, I tell them that it’s not always judicious to keep quiet if you believe in what you have to say. I tell them to have a voice, loud or quiet, because each voice has value and each voice knows.
If there is anything that I have learnt, it is to do whatever one has to do to go ahead, but to still remember to reach out, to listen and to empathise. Because however, much the world progresses, and the technology takes over, however hard the keepers of the society insist on success, power and material possession, our very existence and our purpose will still be decided by our precious resource, the people. It will be always be about the people and their voices.
I am collecting quieter voices here, so if you are a teen, a teacher, or a parent, then contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. For any other matter, contact email@example.com.
This is my 100th post. So, my final thank you is to all of you who read my posts. The listener speaks here.