There is a silence where hath been no sound / There is a silence where no sound may be / In the cold grave, under the deep deep sea. –Thomas Hood

So said Ada in “The Pianist” the 1993 movie, about a mute woman, and her prized Piano, sent off to New Zealand. There is an irony abound in that.

Living in Pakistan, America, and the UAE, the one thing that would, could and still always brings an unconditional “stop in tracks and just listen to” is music. To be more exact, classical music, opera, orchestra, soul. Scouring the ends of the earth in my compulsive traveler ways, there is rarely a Chruch left in Europe I have not listened to some variation or form of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart or some concerto.

In the days when Karachi had a modicum of bearable safety, the Sufi Music festival was held here. What a night, what magic, what music. NAPA still holds its all Pakistan music conference in Karachi, which still has a certain charm. Alliance has a few things, Salt arts is really coming on the scene.

But what for the masses? What for the local population? What for our traditional scene? What for the greatness we see on Coke Studio, but forget a year later?

These are the questions I seem to be asking a lot more, every time I sit and listen to a pianist playing in Sydney. Every performance I attend here, every tune I am spellbound by, perched precariously settled on the last chair, of the last row of the Sydney Opera House.

There is a place in Sydney, or two, but for brevity’s sake, we will write about The Queen Victoria Building. Nestled in Sydney CBD, it functions as a “sort of mall” as well as a perfect pedestrian walkway, milling forever with people, always crowded. Come 6pm, the noise reaches its crescendo with the commute back. Even through the din, if you stand really still under the roof with the mosaic tiles and cock your ear, you will hear the strains of a piano. Walk back after 7.30 pm, when silence has settled in, shops have closed, the commute crowd has thinned down to mere stragglers and you will be treated to an aesthetic and music delight.

On the second floor of the QVB, there is a grand piano. And not just any old, derelict piece of work; but a proper piano, a well tuned, well oiled, grand master sort of Piano. And there is always someone there playing

Walking back from work at 830 every night, I would silently savour the silence of the QVB, and yet simultaneously always be riveted by some music of the other wafting its way from the Piano. Every day, I trek my sometimes rather bruised soul upstairs, throw myself on the sofa facing the piano, kick off my shoes and just listen.

A motley crowd usually makes its way through the piano. There will be students practicing their scales, other improvizing their own tunes. A piano teacher turned nurse can be often heard tinkering the keys for Mozart in D minor, or making his way through the latest hits in music version, current favourite request being, “We don’t talk anymore.” The group of students who noisily make their way on the piano and belt out the tunes they often shyly, mostly proudly tell me are their own creations. Scribbling, tearing their music sheets, pencils chewed to the bone, they work hard to get that ever elusive, “perfect” key.

There are the stragglers like me, with some knowledge of the piano, enough to maybe discern a few key notes and when the silence is louder than words, we may look left and right and slide on the piano bench ourselves, savouring the smooth feel of the keys under our hand, while at times we try to evoke memories of piano keys taught to us by firm, yet loving teachers, hands held on the keys, those memories evoked again whenever the piano is played.

Music has this magic to let the guard down. Sydney is still as elusive as ever for me, even with a job, even with a slightly better weather, even with trying everything. But I persevere, reminding myself “life finds a way.” Toughening it up, as they call it. But sitting, listening to “Chariots of Fire” being belted out by a piano teacher on par, letting your guard down and realising that I will live to fight another day is the easiest thing to do.

Tomorrow is another day in Sydney. But at this moment, giving in to the chaos of the soul, letting the tears stream, for once in Sydney, to just give in and start again, is the easiest, the best thing.

While the crescendo of “Chariots of Fire” reaches its high, sometimes its easier to sit crawled on that sofa and sob, the silent tears which only you can hear, and at times even see.

And then when you leave, start everything again.

This is Sydney. Where the music of the Grand Piano at QVB meets the silence of the soul.