Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Hall of Silence

The sign outside the building read -
"All are welcome"
"Please come empty handed"
"Please leave your footwear outside"
"Please wash your hands"

It was a 20 foot tall single story building... with big windows. Just one big room - lit by the sunshine of the day and by bright lights at night.

Inside there were a few low chairs that one could sit on the ground but lean their backs comfortably.

The person who built the building was usually seen quietly sitting inside...

At the beginning, a few people passed by; then a few entered curiously. They all read the sign and did as told. They all sat down in silence... and silent they were as long as they stayed.

Then many more arrived... all removed their footwear outside, all washed their hands, all came empty handed and all sat in silence.

Not many knew each other here, for none talked here. They nodded may be; a smile once in a while.

At first they came with their thoughts... but inside they found a peace. A tranquility unexplained. So they stayed as long as they could.

The person who built the building was silent too... he did nod when someone came in if he had his eyes open. Most of the time he visited this place, he sat silently; most of the time eyes closed, some times eyes open.

Nobody paced, there were no discussions; no talk about anything as they all kept silent.

Soon more people visited... a couple of gaurds were posted outside. The press came and respectfully checked their cameras outside; they did take a few pictures and videos from outside the door; they did walk around the windows to get more pictures. They asked the person who built the place when he stepped out, "Why did you build this?"

He smiled and said nothing.

"There must be a reason", they persisted... he smiled and said "Nothing really!"

A few weeks passed. "Please limit your stay to 30 minutes a day" a new sign was added!

There were many more who arrived and stayed their 30 minutes. Some who used be constant visitors stopped showing up... they probably found a spot of silence where ever they were from. Some did revisit briefly and went back.

Presidents came along, so did people from all walks of life. The sportsmen, the doctors, the lawyers, the artists, the students, people with many beliefs and philosophies, the theists, atheists and agnostics visited... they all left their footwear outside, came empty handed, washed their hands and stayed silently for 30 minutes.

There was a peace there that some did not feel outside... some felt it outside and inside. Some just came by for no real reason. Some visited late in the evening, some early in the morning, some arrived later in the day... a few even showed up at night.

More press people came there, talk radios talked about this place. This time they requested an interview from the person who started this place. "Why again, please could you tell us?", they asked."What is your purpose? What is your mission?"

He smiled softly and this time he said...

"Not much really!
I fretted and fumed at the beginning when I read a lot about a lot of things... I wanted tolerance, love, peace and happiness all over this world! I wanted to change the world. "

He paused, reflecting for a brief moment;

"... then one day it made sense to be silent. The peace was tremendous and so I felt like building this place.

All are welcome here as long as they do not talk in this hall. No one is required to come here, no one is requested to leave - they seem to respect the 30 minute limit; no one is asked to pay any fees; a donation box outside clearly states any money left will go towards maintaining the Hall of Silence and the associated expenses. I have setup a trust to take care of this and manage the funds...

Not much really!", he repeated.

Years passed, many came, many left, many returned, the person who built this place stopped showing up too! The trust ran the building, collecting the donations (more poured in and a PO BOX had to be setup) and for building a few more Halls of Silence.

Atleast they did in this story... may be there are some out there like this, may be not.
May be we can just find that hall in our mind... may be, may be!

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