In search of Silence

Over 600 km on the Out of Eden Walk with two-time Pulitzer prize winning journalist and National Geographic fellow Paul Salopek, I was acutely aware of the nature of sound. This essay, published on the Walk’s website, explores my aural relationship with the walked landscape.


On the Out of Eden Walk, we have a rich complement of […] sounds. Of all the things I expected to take away from the walk, I did not expect this: a craving for silence, a keener appreciation for the nature of sound, a heightened sensitivity to metal striking metal, motors, beeps. A sentiment bordering on misophonia.

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Harmandir Saheb.

It is 6pm

A Sikh man smiles welcome



"Have parshād. U must stay for dinner."

I smile, head in

I pause

I sit

I soak

I do koras

I lean on a bannister, watching

A young man approaches

”What religion do you follow?”

None, I say. But I like coming here. Mujhe sukoon milta hai. 

He nods, after a pause. “They all say that.” 

”What’s your name?” 


”Arati. That’s a Hindu name, yes?” 

I pause, smiling, and look at him. He is very young — mid twenties, I guess.

I remind him of a kirtan that had played just minutes before; it had “arati” in every sentence. 

He laughs, nods, “that’s true.”

Now we are both leaning on the bannister

Kirtans play on the air.  

Sikhs in dark blue turbans stand in front of us

Palkhi saab is sajaaoed, the rituals are complete. 

The sacred text, the Granth Sahib is taken in to the Akal Takht.  

I move away, making my way out.

It’s been five hours. Hours I have not noticed. 

My soul is brimming over.


@outofedenwalk #Slowjournalism #Amritsar

On the Out Of Eden Walk


Waiting for National Geographic Fellow and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Paul Salopek on the India-side of Wagah, I see him at the kerb, his back to me, donkey-saddle-bags scattered about his feet. I sneak up, tap his shoulder & ask, “what if I didn’t show up?”

He turns around grinning, “I’d start walking.” 

And we start walking the India leg of the Out Of Eden Walk from Wagah, Day 1: 23 km to Amritsar.  

See Paul’s account and first Milestone in India, here: 

The plan is to walk on south, through Punjab, into Rajasthan, and onwards towards China. 

Kos minars

A kos minar (see minar near the center of the image) on the GT road that connects Agra and Lahore

A kos minar (see minar near the center of the image) on the GT road that connects Agra and Lahore

When we walk we ask, “how far to the next village?” The answer — usually accurate — from walkers, “paas mein hi hai. Teen kos door.” (It is close enough,  3 kos away.)

A kos is ~3km. Kos minars or mile-markers, 30 ft high minars, dot the roads from Agra to Lahore, Agra to Ajmer, Agra to Mandu. Commissioned by the Afghan Emperor Sher Shah Suri along the Grand Trunk road, kos minars were continued to be built by Mughal Emperors.