My father has been blind by one eye. When he turned deaf he became somewhat helpless. “Is this what next?” he often asked looking up to the sky. The sky would never reply. The only way to communicate was to write to him whatever one wanted to say or ask. Subsequently it became a routine to get a pen and a piece of paper to talk to him. But daily routine can often be frustrating for one who makes it and also for the one who follows it.
“I hardly write more than 5 or 6 words, now see I am writing copies,” Mother would smile showing it. “The few words I wrote are the names of the daily of ration items”
Father found himself in trouble during guest’s visit. Many a times he wouldn’t show up. Repetitions hurt him, he would say. He felt humiliated to see people shouting out to him only to be audible. They would turn down discussions in disgust and he would simply smile back. A smile of acceptance! Sometimes during important talks he would show up only to sit numb and watch lips sync with mother doing the job of writing the whole discussion to him.
“I am about to marry off my daughter,” Once during his visit Kalita said to father.
Father gazed at Kalita; as he was not used to read lips yet.
“I said, I am marrying off my daughter,” Kalita nearly shouted.
There was desperation in his eyes, wanting to answer but he was not hearing at all. He looked at me then to mother and tried to process the conversation. He seemed like a kindergarten kid struggling to recognize the first three alphabets.
“He is saying, he is marrying off his daughter,” I wrote
“Oh… is it, May God bless her,” father said raising his hand as gesture.
A flock of house and tree sparrows would throng our courtyard every morning. Few permanent settlers of our campus and some from nearby areas would assemble restlessly nearby the Neem tree. This time Father couldn’t hear his favourite birds chirping. As part of a hobby the moment he would stand at the corner of the courtyard with a bag of grain, over hundred of them would surround him. They would flutter their tiny wings and wait eagerly for the bonanza. However this time he was not taking part in the discussion that usually followed during the feast. Some of them raised concern on his abrupt behavioral change by fluttering nearly touching his feet. Few of them fend away by flying away to the tin roof, in a sense that if Father didn’t change his behavior they would not come next morning. He was not responding to their morning greetings and neither there was smiling back indeed. He simply sprayed the grains on the ground and watched them peck on them.
“It is strange to be in a confinement of silence amidst a communicating world,” he later said.
Soon Father had to pass through a surgery to fix a hole on his right eardrum. It also came to light that nerves connecting to his ears have stopped working. With the left ear impaired for life, a hearing aid on his right ear would help.“Can you hear me,” Jugal asked helping him with the aide.
“I can even hear you inhaling and exhaling,” father smiled.
In a beautiful rainy afternoon, he was searching for his hearing aide like a soldier raiding a house in search of a top secret. He turned the mattress upside down, flung the drawers open, looked for it in between the pages of the book he was reading the previous night, on the bathroom shelves and scanned the courtyard. It’s gone!
“Have you seen it?”
“No, I haven’t”
“It fell on the way, I suppose. I boarded a rickshaw,” he declared.
“Should we go and look for it on the road?” I suggested.
“I hope to find it,”
We decided to walk to Hatigaon, the place where he boarded a rickshaw previously.
“Keep looking down,” He asked.
The sense of helplessness loomed over him again. He didn’t want to be called deaf again. He didn’t want to see lips sync and wait for the write ups coming to him. He had moist eyes, rain falling on his face washed them away. We kept looking for it for the whole 1 km stretch including under the parked vehicles and into the drain. The rain might have led it there.
We walked up to the rickshaw stand. Incessant rain made people seek shelter, except us. They noticed us out of inquisitiveness. We were bowing our heads all the time and searching for something on the ground.
“Have you seen a hearing aid lying here,” he asked a rickshaw puller, forgetting that he would not hear him even if he had said that he did.
“The moving vehicles might crush it,” a shopkeeper suggested.
After a prolonged search of 2 hours we returned home, dismayed. Clouds rumbled overhead and heavy rain kept drumming on the corrugated rooftop. Father made himself comfortable on the sofa. He gazed at the wall. His world crashed again in the confinement of silence.
Before giving it up I searched for the box, he would usually keep the aid inside it before sleeping.
Yes!….. it’s there!
“Haven’t you looked in the container? It was there all the time,” I showed it to him.
In fact, it was there since last night. It didn’t fell on the way, neither the rain washed it nor the vehicles crushed it. He only forgot that he was not using it that day. He immediately snatched it from me and wore it.
“I am losing my head now,” he said.