Keeping Quiet

By Kanishk Aggrawal, Year II

“Now I’ll count up to twelve

And you don’t keep quiet and I will go.”

After my not-so-impressive performance the previous year, I decided to start spending more time in the library in the hope that I might be induced to study more, perhaps even make my projects on time. Also, the AC provides an added level of comfort. However, after only a few hours in the library, I started wondering whether I had made the right decision.

It wasn’t about the guilt associated with coming to this sacred temple. It wasn’t even the towering bookshelves. Nor was it the sight of so many people (read: mostly first years) sitting there, hooked to their books. It was the noise, the extremely annoying noise.

So this one-of-many evenings, I was sitting, studying something, in the grand Justice TPS Chawla Library. It was well past 9. And then, very near to where I was seated, a bunch of people started chatting about something. For a while, it was fine, something I wouldn’t even notice. But then more and more people joined in and their voices swelled. A similar group accumulated on another side, only their conversation was also interspersed with loud laughter. This continued for about 15 minutes (or was it more?). Here I was, studying in a library, surrounded by people who were talking and laughing loudly, in a library, completely oblivious to those who were there for the purposes of studying. And I got very irritated. You can’t focus on your studies, and you don’t always feel comfortable going and telling people to stop making so much noise. So I sat there silently, waiting for that ordeal to get over.

Soon, divine intervention struck. These people actually stopped talking and dispersed. Finally! Maybe now I could get back to the really long case that I had been reading. But my relief was short lived, because it was nearly midnight already, and the guard was asking everyone to go back to the hostels. I refused to budge, to study just a little more, just one last line, but he switched off the lights. Compelled, I packed up my stuff, and exasperated, made my way out and back to the hostel. Another day wasted, no work done…

I still remember my days in primary school when we used to go to the library. The first rule of sitting in the library was to keep silent. Gradually, as I grew up, we started ignoring this rule quite a lot. Every free period was spent in the library, which was air-conditioned. To talk, to have fun, to laugh, to socialise, and sometimes, to study.

But this fine evening I realised that that was a wrong view to take. A library is a place where you’re supposed to maintain silence. While you may be there just for the AC, and talk with your friends, there are others who are actually there to study, and your loud voices get on their nerves. Honestly, can you not stop exercising your jaw just for a minute?

When I complained about this to a friend (one of the culprits herself), she tried to defend herself by saying that the library is the only place on this campus where people can socialise. My only answer to that was no, it’s not. The cafeteria is. The hostel is. The Academic Block is. The rest of the fucking campus is. The Library is not!

And what’s with attending phone calls while you’re seated here? Can you not walk out to the reception area if you have to attend your call? Just don’t make others share in your conversation.

I feel that I must clarify: I’m not against socialising in the library. Everyone needs the AC. And everyone needs the occasional chat with the friend. It works, as long as you keep your voice to a whisper (or maybe a little louder). But it’s not fine when you start having shouting matches, and the person sitting next to you starts wondering why he came to the library at all. It’s a humble request: please maintain the sanctity of this temple. There are people who actually come here to study. And they need that silence.

The author wonders whether we all need to be sent back to primary school to learn the basic rules of sitting in a library?

The author realises that the fault is also his to share. He has himself been approached by other people to keep his voice low, quite often. But after having gone through many a harrowing experience himself, he promises to try and keep silent in the library more often. And, if you find him talking and disturbing you, please approach him and tell him to shut up!

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