I have one problem and it is that I consume every word people say. The reason I do that is because I sift through words and try to find some clues.

The words people say reflect the status of their minds. As I grow older, the fascination of going through people’s minds without being obtrusive is getting stronger.

Letting people talk is an art. Just let them pour out and somewhere along the lines they would reveal a bit of themselves. If you listen long enough, you get a glimpse of their secrets residing deep in their hearts.

The problem I am talking about is that when you master the art, the subject gets too attached to you. You are creating a guru figure out of yourself by just ‘lending your ear’.

It is a responsibility and the one that has to be maintained as long as you have ‘disciples’ around. Lending an ear effectively makes you more or less dumb. People choose you, rather than the other way around. They know where to find you and even pick you up from the crowd.

How do they spot you? Certainly not because you have a kind face! Perhaps, you look like a clown? Or simply you look like you have nothing better to do with your time. One thing for certain, people who have something to talk about needs no complications or provocations. They appear to say: “Listen unconditionally and never judge me after that.”

You give an impression of a huge mountain looking down at sands. Mountains just stand there absorbing every change that the wind creates on the sands.

They take everything in; make all the observations by just being attentive. Who takes the mountains seriously, anyway? They are dumb, perhaps foolish and too unimaginative. It is true that when you listen you offer a lot to other people.

You offer an unorthodox service and at the end of the day, they move on and you don’t. There is nothing for you personally, but then you defeat the purpose if you ask something in return. In that sense, what is there to ask? It is not a service in the normal sense and it has no monetary value.

Perhaps, a smile after a ‘session’, but certainly you get no ‘thank you’ note tied with a ribbon. Who needs it anyway? Listeners tend to look at moving waters for a long period of time, but not swim in it.

The sound soothes them. The little ripples are the audience and the mind can ‘talk’ to them privately. The problem is that moving waters are a rarity in cities. You need to walk to the beach.

There you see answers on the rushing waves and the reflection of the sun on the water. Deep meaning of words is unnecessary. It is just pure simplicity. Talk to the water, if you don’t find a listening ear, and there is no fear of talking back.

All this might be a result of my background. During his long life, my father, being deaf and dumb all his life, never had much use for words. He listened a lot without hearing and there was an irony in that. He listened with his eyes and let the mind figure out the rest.

You could talk all day to him and he would nod his head all day, acknowledging every gesture you make. You were safe with him because your spoken word would not be spilled out to anyone else.

Again, there is an irony in that. People like him never hold grudges. They just welcome you with the same enthusiasm every time they see you. It has its reward, but never the conventional one. It never makes you unique, but it feels that way. When they need you, they just know where to find you. It is as simple as that.

 The writer is an Oman-based freelance columnist. This article has been reproduced from the Khaleej Times.