Travails of the deaf

Imagine a world without the chirping of birds and the humming of bees!

My late younger brother lost his hearing almost completely towards the end of his life. He would tell me that he would not have minded if he had gone blind but losing  hearing, he felt, was an even greater tragedy.

That reminds me of something else. Many, many years ago, when I was working in Kolkata, we used to have in office an extremely quiet colleague. We would call him ‘Santha’, Mr Peace. One day, to every body’s shock and surprise, we saw him beat up his clerk, a newly recruited boy, in front of every one, during office-hours.

We crowded around him to know what had happened. Shaking with anger, and face ruddy with fury, he pointed his finger at his clerk, and said, “This vermin called me bastard.” The clerk, in all confusion, shook his head and said, “All I asked him was whether he is deaf.”

When my late brother before his passing away visited me in Bangalore, I tried to persuade him to visit one of the well-advertised hearing-aid-clinics, and get himself a hearing-aid.

He refused to listen. He said, as it is he looked pencil-thin and pale. With a hearing-aid dangling from one ear, he would look grotesque. I tried to tell him that there are small gadgets, minute and almost ‘invisible’. He would have none of it. Now, I also seem to have acquired this morbid fear of going deaf. I would periodically visit one of those good hospitals and get my hearing tested. They would laugh at me and would shoo me saying, “Your hearing is good for your age.”

Then there is this cousin of mine retired from a senior position in a premier financial institution in the country. The phone might go on ringing; but he would never lift it. His poor wife has to leave all her household chores and rush to attend the phone.

He says he is deaf in one ear. Result of a cricket ball that got thrown at his left ear during his school days. But, his right ear is functional, no? He says, What if he hears things wrong? Mis-communication. There is this old story of the king who ordered his hangman to let go the prisoner: “Hang him not.” Poor fellow, hard of hearing, heard it as, “Hang him.” The last word he missed, and the prisoner went to the gallows.

All said and done, those of us who are gifted with the ability to hear, should keep on reminding ourselves that hearing is a great blessing. Just imagine a world where you cannot hear the chirping of birds, the crackle of geese, the hum of the honey-bee.

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