Kalki Koechlin’s Poem ‘Noise’ Is An Accurate Reflection Of The Clamour Of Our Everyday Lives

Posted by Devika in Culture-Vulture, Society
June 24, 2017

Within two days of its release on the Youtube channel BLUSH, Kalki Koechlin’s “Noise”, a slam poem, has lived up to its name. Google’s already showing more than a lakh results on “Kalki Koechlin Noise” and here’s another voice with views on the poem, that won’t hopefully drown in the opinionated cacophony surrounding Kalki’s second piece of slam poetry.

After the poem came out, Hindustan Times chose to highlight it as a tribute to silence, as the poetess herself has been quoted saying in some articles, while HuffPost saw it as one that explains “why noise is good”. As mentioned above, multiple channels and media houses have attempted to somehow categorize it into a camp of pro noise or pro silence. And there lies their fault and undervaluation of the said poem, for this piece of art transcends these categorizations.

I see the poem as one that transcends issues, debates, politics, society and so much more. It addresses all and yet none and thereby achieves the status of art for it alludes common understanding and categorization, not to be contained in man-made boundaries but as the saying goes, supposed to make you feel something, if not everything.

Ironically, Kalki’s own poem is a cacophony of multiple thoughts, ideas, complex issues. But this cacophony is intentional to show the coming together of multiple discordant voices into a cacophony called life.

The idea of life as a cacophony couldn’t appeal more to anyone but the youth of the country, drowned in so many voices of ‘isms’, belief systems and societal structures that somewhere they lose their own voice. Where did the ‘youth ki awaaz’ go? Drowned as one of the many shouts in this milieu of reverberating loudly-voiced thoughts or silenced by the futility of effort they saw in their predecessors who tried?

The poignant note on which the poem ends conveys everything it was building up to:

“someplace faraway,
from all the noise
we are deafened by the silence
of our own voice.”

To confuse silence with being quiet would be naive. In today’s fast, bustling, rushing world where everyday clamours, physical and mental in nature, of social media posts, tweets, updates, the calls of the mosque, temple, church, the abuses flung casually in the heated traffic you faced this summer afternoon, are we ever silent?

The lonely silence in bed hence refers to not lack of noise. It’s lonely not because there is no one there but because there is too much going on, and it keeps going on, reducing the cacophonous clamour of frantic activity to deafening monotony, which we are too used to, to hear or respond to. This inactivity is the silenced mind we all mistake for quiet, when all we are doing is employing an escape mechanism and reducing ourselves to instruments playing mindlessly in this orchestra. Ignoring the rich hues the other instruments offer while also ignoring the notes we ourselves are playing because we are so bent on following the rules and playing our own tune. How many times have we tweeted something as a reaction and not a thoughtful action, honked unnecessarily even though we are aware everyone is stuck in the traffic? The mind plays its own tune on “auto mode”, and we get stuck in the pattern with no time to contemplate and step out of the pattern, like the poem hints at.

From its very beginning —“I used to live in a noisy neighbourhood”— to the last word, the poem has a gradual increase in tempo created by the recitation and the accompanying music until the final stanza silences all the music and the accompanying noise just as it reaches its peak point, to fall into relative silence and examine the deafening silence within.

What I take away from the poem ultimately?

The world is a market of discordant voices of multiple themes, ideologies, thoughts and so much more. This poem, written for world music day, while on one hand points to the melody these voices sometimes settle into, each finding its own place and instrument; on the other end, is not unaware of the “noise” it creates drowning not only everything around it but also itself.

What can we do to save ourselves from being drowned?

Find our own melody just like Kalki does in the poem as she chooses to address only the noise she wants to, and when she wants to.