Why Women Need A Silence Zone

Posted: May 30, 2013

Women’s lives are a series of interruptions, and Indian women are no exception. Why women need a silence zone.

A writer once declared that she had become an expert on ten minute writing. The longest stretch of time she got in one go was ten minutes, and that’s how she wrote, every so often whenever she found the time. Did it disrupt her thought or creative process to be dragged away from her writing every few minutes? Of course, it did. But, like all writers, since she truly cared for what she did, she just tolerated the unstructured nature of her existence while she wrote her heart out. Women, she declared, are mostly ten minute writers.

If observed closely, this syndrome holds true for every other field as well. In fact, the one minute manager could learn a thing or two from women in the corporate world, or the business world, or the academic world, or the artistic world. A very senior corporate executive in a multinational used to carry recipe books in her car so that she could dictate them to her cook at home. Another woman in the advertising world was constantly being interrupted at work because her servant quit without notice. There are legions of women out there who sneak time out from their work to give phone help to their kids for homework.

There is no silence in a woman’s life. No matter what she does, or how accomplished she is, she is always besieged by the demands of her domestic life, even if her professional life is exceedingly busy. She is perpetually worried about the next meal, the next load of laundry, the next scheduled visit to the vet for the dog, the next project for her daughter’s eighth grade science exhibition. Her life is a spray can, flinging thin particles of ‘stuff’ in her face perpetually, seemingly small stuff that is nonetheless distracting and annoying. It is mostly unimportant stuff (the maid stuck in the balcony for half a day will survive, but it’s a disturbing nodule of information) and you tell yourself that nothing much can be done about it.

A friend once declared that she’d like to send all delivery boys to a collective hell. They ring doorbells, she said indignantly, just when she is sitting down to two hours of singing practice. A ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign would be laughed at. Or ignored.

Is there an end to this relentless parade of petty tasks? Of course not. The garbage collector, the delivery boy, the absent cook and the ever-present child will be there all through one’s productive life, and there will come a point when we’ll actually enjoy the sight of an alive face at our doorstep. But that day isn’t now. Now women need a moment of solitude, of introspection, when they can look upon life, and quietly celebrate its joys or mourn its vicissitudes.

Till such time that ‘silence zones’ where we can go and sit in an absolute vacuum for an hour or so every day are built for us, we must learn to find this time ourselves, to look for that one hour in a day when nothing and nobody, except a death, can intrude. A friend used to gift herself a late morning every Sunday when her family knew not to wake her up or open her bedroom door. She knew a thing or two about happiness!

Pic credit: AmslerPIX (Used under a Creative Commons license)

Beyond Pink writes on women's stories in urban India. They could be real or

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  1. I can not but fully agree with you. I have seen my sister, many female friends, my female colleagues, how they juggle their family life with their professional life. We man don’t have to deal with this though thanks to the female companions in our life. Thanks God, nature created women to deal with the stress of the world.

    • I appreciate your comment, but I also think that this has less to do with “nature” and more to do with social conditioning! Maybe not all interruptions can be done away with, but why can’t a husband say to the wife, “No need to worry about the laundry or the door, I’ll take care of it. Why don’t you spend some time writing/reading/whatever task she wants to do without any interruptions”? Or “I’ll make dinner tonight.” so that there is no need for the woman to rush back home from work wondering what to cook?

    • Well said Anne John

  2. Arunima Shekhar -

    There is a hilarious TED talk by Mark Gungor which says that man’s brain is compartmentalized into boxes, with one box labeled ‘nothing’. When they’re in that box, they are doing nothing, they’re blank. I sometimes wish I had the liberty to built that ‘nothing’ box into my brain! Women just can’t afford to be in the “nothing” mode.

  3. Well said and most of scenarios are common in a woman’s life. Tasklist is never ending and no matter however many you tick off, new ones get added to it to make up. However at times I do feel, if life was not so, would it not be very boring? We have been conditioned with the fast pace life, so many one without it would be strange. However the madness will not last forever, a time will come when of this will slow down, and as you said one will yearn to see a live face on the front door!

  4. An absolutely ‘connectable’ piece, Beyond Pink 🙂 And Arunima will surely watch this TED talk as I simply love the concept of the ‘nothing’ box…..

  5. Even as I nodded my head at most of this post, something niggled at me – the casual use of the word “servant” and the throwaway phrase that the maid stuck in the balcony for a half day isn’t a big issue. As women ask for rights for ourselves (including the right to a little time of our own), can we be a little more empathetic to other women, who may not be “women like us” but face much worse problems than we do?

  6. Nice writeup, having gone through the whirlpool during initial phases of motherhood and almost loosing the silence zone for few years, finding myself always irritated, negative, and tired, I started working on this strictly. Now I constantly create “me time” on weekley basis. As Anne already have added, it is not just the nurturing nature of women but the social conditioning too which allows women always to be proactive towards the crying baby, ringing door bell, instructing etc. Husbands don’t tell us that they can take care of these things as they have seen their mothers doing it constantly, also we fail to tell them whether they would mind to take turns. I guess women need to initiate the practice of having some self time on regular basis and without feeling guilty about this and slowly she can see that the family is supporting her as they are getting a more smiling mama/wife in return.

  7. Loved this article. So so true! Indeed there is silence that I crave so often including silencing my guilt and the thoughts in my head.

  8. In a more evolved context, we would be able to have a ‘nothing’ box. Perhaps one way out is to develop an activity that is far away from everyone else’s cognitive space, and devote a little time to it on a regular basis. It’s not exactly silence, but it allows the mind to focus on oneself for a little while.

  9. Loved the concluding lines of this piece – this *is* a gift we need to give ourselves.

    If we think we cannot afford to be in nothing mode, we won’t get to be! We need to have the expectation, communicate it, and work towards making it happen. It may still never happen for some of us, and not always for others (and definitely not overnight). But, carrying on from what Anne said in the comments, why can’t the wife say to the husband/children/… “I’m going to spend some time writing/reading/whatever task without any interruptions”

  10. I get up before the family wakes and write. realised that since I cant change the world, let me change my routine. so no courier, delivery or garbage guys to bother me at 5,30 am. get two hours flat of me time and then the world wakes up and I am at its beck n call.

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