It was a Monday morning, I was returning to Mysore from my hometown Bangalore, in a train. I boarded the moving train and settled. I had a newspaper in my hand and started glancing through the headlines. There was unusual silence in the cabin, unlike the usual noisy and the busy bogie often seen. I felt happy, I loved the silence! The silence grew and this did not bother me. There was neither “vada, maddur vada”, “tea tea tea” voices heard, nor the co passengers’ constant chit chat! I must have dozed off reading the newspaper. The constant rocking of the train did add quality to my sleep.
On opening my eyes I saw a couple and a girl sitting in front of me. The kid seemed to be a 10 year old, and her parents in early 30s. They were all in smiles, hand gestures seemed more than usual. The kid also behaved well! I thought a well-mannered kid,kudos! It struck my curiosity. Questions started to buzz in my head. Were they playing dumb charades? Should I join then? I put aside my newspaper and began to watch them keenly, so that I could join in-between! The truth dawned, they were communicating and not playing. I felt so dumb, looking at them through my narrow vision. Dumb charades, what was I thinking!
They had a glow on their face which most people don’t have! One could say they were happy just by looking at their face. They disproved whatever little I had read about language as a basic means of communication! I realized communication lies in expression and gesture rather than mere use of words. My thoughts grew deeper. I was imagining their married life. I was intruding their privacy in my head.
How do they argue/vent out their anger? Initially I thought they were lucky in this aspect! Neither of them can shout at each other, nor can listen. Normal couple turn deaf to each other, to keep their calm and be happy. If this logic was to be applied here, it was a boon to be “deaf and mute” and be in a relationship! But how can this be reality? I would have to be a romanticist to believe so. I felt the need for voice there. Just a simple thing produced by the movement of air across the vocal cords, could help u decrease your stress tremendously! I couldn’t decipher if their life was stressed. Would they get into physical fights? Would they write down their indifferences? Or was their sign language enough to help them? My limited understanding of deaf and mute life startled me.
By then the kid got bored, and started moving around inside the bogie. She was so expressive in her eyes, facial expressions said more than her voice would have. She jumped around and tried getting onto the upper berth by herself. Her parents were busy doing something. If they had voice they would have warned her to be safe without even looking at her. But in this case, they had to stop their work and make eye contact with their daughter and then warn her. Laborious isn’t it?
After that the kid came back to sit beside her father. They shared some lighter moments and she burst into laughter. I heard unusual, raw laughter. It then struck me, the girl could be trained to speak, lip read! I wondered how a deaf and mute parent would be able to recognize their daughter’s voice, which might be normal. How could they train her? All they could do was to teach the daughter their sign language.
By now I had gathered courage to talk to the family. I introduced myself. I asked them if they had enrolled their daughter in any institution, for speaking and lip reading instructions. Fortunately the kid was enrolled at AIISH(All India Institute of Speech and Hearing). She knew to write Kannada alphabets and her name. She tried to vocalize my name, but the clarity was not there. She needed more constant support and guidance from her parents and her instructors. Only few sessions in a month couldn’t have enormous improvements. Though it was delayed education, the girl was making progress.