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Faith, Hope and the Sound of a Ringing Phone

Updated: Oct 26, 2021

In the paper, The Burrow of Sound, Mladen Dolar, very beautifully, develops the idea of soundscape and its associated aspects, developing the idea upon the short story The Burrow (Der Bau) by Franz Kafka. The central concern that arises through this intervention and exchange between Kafka’ The Burrow and Dolar’s The Burrow of Sound, is that in the contemporary scenario, just like the Badger’s consciousness towards the horizon of sound, a girl child imbibes an imposed consciousness towards her essential realm of consciousness towards a particular element of soundscape.

The Badger was in need of developing a sophisticated sense and skill to make a distinction towards the realm and the nature of sounds (in terms of their threat and opportunities), so as to live another moment. Similar but more imposing, is the situation here with a girl child in her household setting. She becomes conscious, not by choice, but by imposition, towards the sound of a ringing phone. But why should it matter here? The question is valid. What is the need to examine this relation between the sound of a ringing phone and a girl’s awareness towards it. Living in a slum area, and the source of earning for the family comes through the housekeeping services, it becomes quite a challenge for the girl child of the family to have even the most basic of the necessities getting fulfilled. Works offered to her parents come through the only medium of communication available at home. It happens through mobile conversation. And this is where it becomes important to understand and talk about the essence of the sound of a ringing phone and the girl’s focus towards that.

A ringing phone during the pandemic period was/is a hope of good news for the family, said one of the girls living in the slum area near Nelson Mandela Marg. It was a source of earning for us to get the knowledge that any sort of help or work is required in certain houses, institutes, colonies...Like a badger’s focus and awareness to decipher the meaning behind a certain kind of sound, she had acquired a faithful inclination towards any sound of ringing phone, be it from a neighboring family, who is living a life full of crisis, just like them. She said that it is not god who is helping us in these adverse times. Her response was a genuine one and it carried an aura of self-knowledge about the nature of the sound world she inhibits. A process of building was certainly taking place on the epistemological level.

Her upbringing, according to herself, was quite a religious one. At home, she was taught that it is god who looks after everything, and that god is present everywhere in everything to help anyone in need. But the contemporary situation proved to be a testing ground for the previous knowledge she was passed on to from her parents. And then, like the badger from the story of The Burrow, by Kafka, she starts creating her own world that is composed of meticulously tested and chosen elements. And most importantly, these elements, in her words, should have a practical ground in these tough times.

Another aspect, that entails this attitude and the consciousness towards the utility of every element in life, is that she feels paranoid towards such an electrical sound. She has to be on alert every moment, so as to not miss a single call or message received on the phone. There comes the analogical similarity to the Burrow and the immediate case of the girl’s understanding to the world around her. The hope is what is binding her to go through such a pain even though her individual life is completely indulged in such exhaustive issues. A loss of that innocence and childhood hovers over her life. And in the course of such a dire tie, no one can say where all that will lead to in the coming future.


1. The Burrow of Sound” Volume 22, Numbers 2 and 3 doi 10.1215/10407391-1428861 © 2011 by Brown University and differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies.

2. Kafka, Franz. “The Burrow” 1933, London,Martin Secker.

Chandan Kumar did his graduation from Center for German Studies, SLL&CS, JNU and Masters from SAA, JNU. He is currently enrolled in Ph. D. Program in the Center for Visual Studies, SAA, JNU.

An avid reader of literature and write blogs on his observations and Studies of Cinema from across the world, art exhibitions, & theatre performances. He loves traveling and trekking in leisure time. He currently works as an Intern at Kanyaka Foundation.


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