When I was growing up and had seen less of the world I needed to survive in, it was a lot easier. I had just a singular voice. It spoke and I listened and did what it told me to do. Life was simple, clean and uncomplicated.
The first recollection of having an internal conflict, followed by the realization of another voice voicing its opinions within me came into me on a warm, summer afternoon when I had just walked back from the school bus stop with my grandmother. As I walked across the open verandah to keep my bag in my room, I heard a distinctly familiar voice. Entering my grandfather’s room which housed the large television set that the family watched in the evenings, I was greeted by a paternal uncle who had come to stay with us for a while. He was building a house in Delhi and would stay intermittently as the construction progressed.
“Namaste, Uncle,” I greeted him as I had been taught to greet guests.
You see, we stayed in the middle of a commercial hub, Asia’s largest market, and had a lot of guests dropping in. We, my sister and I, were well versed in greeting guests as all those who wanted to go shopping would drop by to savour a cup of tea or have a convenient meal at our place, much to the chagrin and agony of my mother who had learnt to singlehandedly prepare a meal for 10 unannounced guests at the drop of a hat.
“Which class do you study in now?” he asked, his voice loud and boisterous. The words had the clarity and vibrance that was needed when one was speaking to a young child.
“Second standard, Uncle,” I replied.
“Arre wah! You are a big girl then!” he exclaimed.
I flashed a glance at him, my two pigtails on either side of my ears vouching for being confused like me. Did I sense mockery there?
He had spoken to me as if I was a child and he had said that I was a big girl.
The voice surfaced then.
It said, “He is lying just to impress you. You are not a big girl. You are a child.”
I said, “Is he? Why would he? What will he get out of lying to me?”
“He just wants to appear charming,” said the voice.
“He is anyway charming,” I said.
“Some people just make inroads that way. Inroads into the mind. This is their way of becoming friendly and making the atmosphere pleasant. He means no harm. It is his way of making conversation.”
“Hmmm” I replied.
This was an internal dialogue and I still remember it very lucidly.
The whole internal conversation between me and the voice happened very quickly and it was noticed by no one. But this was a turning point for me. A trifle incident just stuck and became a defining moment. I understood that we: the voice and me together, could understand the world quite intricately.
This was my introduction to the world of Voices. From then onward, without the awareness, the voice became an integral companion. We had dialogues, debates, deliberations and loads of insider jokes. Both of us together sliced open personalities, smiles, looks, hands and eyes. We had the works going on inside.
I am quite certain that mine is not the only existential reality with more than one voice inside my head. So, tell me, is there a voice in your head? Or are there two or three? Or more? Do they perform checks and balances all along? Are these the voices we call ‘thoughts’? Are they the ‘voices of our gut’? Are they creations of our own mind? What the hell are they?
Do the voices keep rattling you with suggestions, opinions and judgements about what others are doing and what you are doing or what might happen? Worse still, do they keep checking you and try to make you feel guilty or foolish or practical and intelligent?
How many of them do you have anyway?
I believe I have at least two of them and they are constantly at loggerheads.
One is the voice I have been calling ME, the one entangled with the body and the world. The other is the one not sullied by these entanglements. Does it ever confuse you whether the voice is the real you or you are the real you? It bothers me a huge deal.
Just the other day, I heard it real loud and clear.
“You get up from that couch on which you have stuck your ass since morning and go lift some!” it said, loud and reprimanding.
Silently, I stood up and went to my home gym on the first floor. I worked out. It kept butting in and telling me that I needed to do more, lift heavier, and that I wasn’t trying as hard as I should.
“Doing as much as I can.”
“No, you aren’t!
“Nopes, and you know it,” it argued.
“Shut up!” I said, wrapping up my physical battle as I made my way to the ground floor post my workout. I grabbed the big box of cake and settled on the sofa, cuddled into a blanket and began to browse Netflix for the brainless movie that I would watch and put the voices to rest.
As I zeroed in on the movie, I started to munch the delightful cake.
“Enough,” it said after I had eaten a couple of thin wedges.
Ignoring, I kept digging in. And kept digging in. And kept digging in.
Then we both had a rather ugly confrontation. You see, I was adamant that I wanted cake. I collect plum cake around Christmas time. I collect it like it is a collector’s item. Lots of it. I collect cake as if the world is about to end and I may never see another cake ever again. It’s the dilemma of having cake and eating it too. I experience it full throttle this time of the year and way past Christmas. I want to eat it and still have it and eat it and still have even more of it left. I want that circle to go on as a never-ending loop.
“You glutton, how much of it you want to devour?” the voice’s voice was accusatory and disgusted. “You have been having if off that tin box for the past half an hour, you know?”
“Just a bit more,” I answered, inside my head. “And then I will shut this box,” I continued. “A bit more will not hurt, now, will it? See, the size of slices I am eating. They are so incredibly thin!”
“Idiot! If you eat thin slices for another fifteen minutes, you are likely to polish off the whole cake,” it said.
If it had eyes, they would have stared at me in utter disgust. I rolled mine, chuckled and kept eating.
“Go. Eat. You pig. Eat till you burst. Eat all you want. Eat like there is no tomorrow. If you want to eat like this, you deserve what you will soon become! A LARGE BIN!!” the voice shouted in my head.
I kept letting it scream and yell all that it wanted and I kept putting thin slices of the cake, letting it melt into my mouth, its sweetness luring me on and on. I hunted for the juicy fruits and picked on the pieces with the most fruit. I tried to go slow so that I would not feel like a gluttony pig. Not that it would have mattered since I would be finishing the whole thing anyway.
Then the cake became tasteless. My taste buds were so awfully clogged with cake that they could not taste the cake again. I pushed in another piece and then the second last one and then that last one, in the hope that I would be able to get the overpowering taste but that was not to happen. I could taste nothing.
The box was empty, my mind was full. Full of the voice. The voice had given up on me and just sat there silent, as a horrified and disgusted presence. My body felt lethargic and sick. My stomach was bloated and distended in all directions. I felt ugly and ruined. I was so full of cake, half of which was about to get out of me the next morning on the royal throne and the other half was going to stick on me for a long time to come.
I should have listened to that voice. I know.
If this was to happen again, I will probably still not listen to it. I know this too.
It will probably not give up and neither will I. Gosh! I sound almost like an alcoholic right now☹
But on a serious note, is there any way that you can tell it to shut up and it listens?
Or maybe, you sit up, understand that this is your gut speaking and go along with it? Will I finally start listening to it or not? Will I have the courage to do what it tells me to do?
The answer is crystal clear within me. The answer is that I don’t know and this is my favourite answer to many questions and the answer that irritates the hell out of my better half. Since I truly believe that common sense is not very common and logic has stopped working for me, I do not know which voice to listen to. The spot where I am fixed is the middle path. I keep questioning the final action that I am making and this is extremely unsettling. Who will I listen to finally, I have no clue.
Growing up, the struggle of staying smart and on top of things made me look around and see the world from many different perspectives. It told me to study my whereabouts through many angles. It also told me to have concrete opinions about everything. Now how in the world can you analyse multiple perspectives and then have concrete opinions too?
The more perspectives I looked at the world through, the more undecided I kept becoming, not just about the matter at hand but also about who I really was, until recently it dawned on me that maybe I wasn’t even someone! Maybe, I was just a fuzzy collection of certain ideas and certain personas that I don to meet certain requirements of certain people and certain situations.
The multiple perspectives I chose to explore told me that there were as many realities as there were perspectives and thus the count of realities rose to an infinite number. If I looked at something one way it looked this way and if I looked at it another way, it looked completely different. This was true for physical objects as well as stories. The protagonists and the antagonists kept trading places according to the narrator who held the microphone. The world soon became a very fuzzy place.
The voice inside grew louder. Soon there was a lot of shouting inside. This was what I could call the worldly growing up. I was a grown up. I looked around and observed. I looked at the world and analysed. I understood perspectives. The din and clutter within me increased. I was an avid observer but the only observation that I was not making all this while was that of myself. Whoever that myself was.
I always have and I still tend to grow into and out of things quite fast, much to my dismay. I am increasingly becoming tired of the rising cacophony and want to try the next level of growing up. This growing up would amount to undoing most of the growing up I have done until now. I need to step back into the past and then leap into the future.
Translating this into a practical statement is to try and merge the voices: that of the gut (or from wherever it emanates!) and that of the mind. And then, there will not be too much of the extra voices left inside. The only problem is that this practice can take a life time. More accurately speaking, it can take several lifetimes and maybe still more.
I need to have a single voice emanating from within, just like in the childhood days. The difference between then and now being that now I have to be aware of the plethora of voices all around me, distance myself from them and operate with just the one emanating from within me, the one in touch with the non-local intelligence, the ubiquitous intelligence or the chitta.
Finding this voice is the goal for now and I have given myself to the goal. I am ambitious about it. I need to build some will power. The kind of will power I displayed when I was a child, the will power I displayed when I had only one voice and that was the only one I heard and listened to and so life was simple, clean and uncomplicated.