Being deaf is lonely. Life swirls around you while you miss the jokes, lose the thread, confuse the issues, and draw the wrong conclusions. People forget you even while you are sitting right there in front of them. By the time they remember, so much has happened they can’t catch you up.
Mummy – now 96 – has been hard of hearing for several years, with a precipitous decline in the last seven or eight months. She has become more isolated as a result and while she continues to teach (the kids S-H-O-U-T out their answers unabashed), she has stopped joining us when we have guests as she feels too awkward and bored and she simply refuses to go out with us for parties anymore.
We do our best to keep her in the loop. We keep a notebook at the table and whenever she isn’t able to understand what we are saying, we write it down. But even for us, it is all too easy to get carried away with our own conversations. Ravi and I have so much to tell each other and life moves so quickly. (To say nothing of the fact that – for me – there is a certain disinclination to S-H-O-U-T out my thoughts in my Hilarious Hindi for all the neighbours to hear and wonder at: “Lady!” they must be thinking. “Do you really need to be the Town Crier when your grammar is non-existent and you can’t tell the difference between Dayain and Bayain?”)
Enter – AS USUAL – Nutan. Nutan, for all who know her, is The Solver of Problems. The Vanquisher of Difficulties. The Banisher of Excuses.
(With a little help from her brother V K, who is no slouch himself.)
When V K was here a few months ago, somehow, miraculously, he persuaded Mummy that she should get a hearing aid. Not that she hadn’t tried before. That was, in fact, the problem.
10 years ago, she had allowed Nutan to buy her a hearing aid (at an astronomical cost of $5000) and IT HAD NOT WORKED. She would tell this story to anyone and everyone. How it had not worked and how it would not work.
No matter what the other person would tell her about their own experience or about how technology had improved so amazingly, she would remain convinced: IT HAD NOT WORKED AND IT WOULD NOT WORK.
How V K had convinced her remains a mystery. But somehow, he had done the impossible. And Nutan had no intention of letting the opportunity slip by.
So when she arrived in Dehradun this week, she was a woman on a mission: by the time she left, her mother would be hearing again. She would be back in the swing of life, participating in conversations, a part of the great dance.
Today we set out to make it happen. I went online and found a place called Eye and Ear Care Centre which turned out to be absolutely wonderful. The owner, Mr Ajay Mehrotra, is a soft-spoken, gentle person who has a never-say-die attitude which matched perfectly with Nutan’s. No matter what the problem is, he believes, it can be dealt with.
Ok. Mummy was not happy about the idea. So convinced that it was all a waste of time, she resented the time it would take to go through the motions.
But Nutan is Nutan. (You have to know her.)
Today we took Mummy to be fitted for a hearing aid.
She continued to explain to anyone who would listen how it wouldn’t work
. . . but it was becoming clear even to her that the rest of the world had a different view:
Technology has changed.
People with hearing difficulties need no longer sit sadly on the sidelines, watching life pass them by. The world is different now!
Oh, my, how I love technology! It is stunning and amazing what is possible now. No need for anyone to be left out!
Mummy came home that afternoon and went straight into a teaching session with her students. There they all were in their usual row, ready to S-H-O-U-T out their answers, as usual:
except that today – it wasn’t necessary. Their Teacher could hear them.
What more could anyone ask?
We still have a ways to go and we know it.
But today, we thanked V K for his part in it:
and we looked forward to a new life of inclusion for the very special woman we all hold so dear.