'What is your favourite sound, Mumma?' The younger one asked as the car stereo belted out yet another Yo-Yo song.
'You mean song?' I quickly changed the channel.
'No, a sound. A favourite sound. Mine is, wind rustling through the pine trees up in the mountains.'
By the time, the cogs in my head started to turn, he seemed to have lost sight of his question, for when I glanced in the rear view mirror, he was deep in a book.
My favourite sound. The first had to be the rain outside the classroom. The fragrance of the first drops soaking the playground would drown the teacher's words, and we'd wait for school to get over. Without a care we'd rush out and jump our way to home--one puddle at a time. The squishing of canvas shoes, the faint thunder that gave way to loud claps, that very rain getting scary if it fell through the night. The sound of hushed horror stories with clouds rumbling above. The sounds of being a child. Of pretending to be brave.
Then came the sound of footsteps in a long corridor leading to my haunt for the next three years. My college. The sound of the bus horn signalled a degree of independence. A small town girl in one of the best colleges of the country. The sound of freedom, mixed with a faint noise of fear. Fear of not fitting in, fear of being ridiculed. But I found my favourite sound there--of being, of learning, of friends, of me. The noise faded.
The rhythm of a train approaching a station was my favourite sound for the next two years. It signalled a journey home to love, and food. Only a hosteller understands the sweetness of the sound of pooris sizzling in the kitchen as one steps in one's home. Each time I returned to the cocoon, the warmth of the familiar sounds weaved threads of comfort around me. Each time I had to leave, that very train lost its rhythm.
The classic ring of a phone set my heart racing after that. I would scamper to pick it, and we'd endlessly talk while my father endlessly grumbled about the mounting phone bills. One such conversation started with my folks leaving on a five-hour train journey to meet his parents, and ended with them reaching his house. That was my favourite sound. It stretched across days, crept through the night hidden under a blanket through the night, and unfurled on rolls of phone bills. The sound of love.
Swoosh! Whoosh! Swoosh! Whoosh! That sound left me speechless. It left me in tears for it came two days late. The sound of my baby's heart. The image on the screen looked nothing like what he is now, but I still hear the swoosh of his heart when he hugs me. Soon, frail whimpers filled my ears. Those weren't my favourite sounds. That had to be his burp! A burp meant a night's sleep. Though the night mostly stretched to precisely one and half hours. That is the way it is in an infant's world--they have shorter days and nights, with no particular pattern.
By the time the younger one stepped in, I had mostly gone deaf. But he came with his own set of sounds, gurgling and giggling, and soon, my favourite sound became the two of them trying to converse in a language known to neither. From hushed bedtime stories, to patient attempts of resolving sibling conflicts, to exasperated screams, my soundscape shifted continuously. I learnt to find rhythm in the ever-changing world created by the two of them.
Then came the puppies! Tiny woofs and growl became our favourite sound. The guilty sigh of being caught with a half-eaten raw potato, the angry rumble at being left alone at home, and a happy yelp at seeing us return home--those sounds continue to be chart-toppers even today.
Somewhere along the way I figured out my own tune. Mine. Not in a burp, or a phone call. Not in the raindrops, nor the paws clicking on the wooden floor looking for me. My sound that keeps me going. Within. I found it and I let it define me. That sound liberated me. It is the sound of not knowing. The sound of being out here. The sound of stretching myself, questioning myself and challenging myself. My sound.
'You didn't tell me what your favourite sound is, mumma? Another one of my favourite is crinkling of the chocolate wrapper.' I could see his smile in the mirror.
'Mine is you.' I said waiting for a dramatic smile and a kiss.
'Dude. I am it! You are noise.' He glanced sideways to his elder brother, and grinned instead.
'Mine is you guys, is what I meant! Jeez! Not just you...'
'MUMMA! How could you! You love him more!' The older one whined.
'No! He didn't let me complete!'
'I did, ma! I heard a full stop!' He turned to the older one. 'You are noise. Accept it.'
The younger one laughed.
The older one grumbled.