Saturday, March 18, 2006

Silent World

My Sunday morning as usual started with dipping clothes for washing. Just then a couple of my roommate’s friends came. Both of them are doing some project related to genetics (that ACTG thing which I tried a lot but never understood). They had come down to Bangalore to do a survey for their studies. They are doing their Ph.D. about deafness and the genes involved in causing deafness.

They were doing their survey through a programme called Swayamwara that was going on in the town. It is sort of a gathering where men and women around 20-40 years of age who are deaf and dumb meet and select their life partners. They register with the counselor there who then makes them all sit in the stage in two groups of men and women and then leaves it to them to select their partners.

The programme was arranged in a marriage hall. The first of my many surprises that day started as soon as I entered the hall. One would expect at least some minimum noise when you enter any gathering, but as I went in I could just see only hands wavering. One could see that they were talking (Is talking the right word here?); anyway, they were talking through hand motions. No one hardly gave us a look when we entered. They were all busy talking. I was totally surprised, how on earth can anyone talk so much without making noise, but they were, in their own way, cracking jokes, enquiring each other’s health, and making fun of each other.

I saw a Muslim family of around 15 people, they looked like they were an Urdu family, but they were conversing with people around them very comfortably, and each one of those people was from a different background. Most of them looked like South Indians and I saw some people from North-East too. I thought how good it will be if all of us have one universal language apart from our mother tongue to speak to all the people in the world? I envy those people, they looked like they never bothered about religion, language, or caste, they were just happily conversing.

After some time, the organiser introduced us to all. He asked them to cooperate with us in our survey. And what surprises we had after that!!! The survey is about basically their personal data, whether they would like to marry a deaf and dumb person or not and will they be willing to have children with them. And if they are willing to have children, will they like to diagnose and see whether the fetus has any deformity and if yes will they abort it or not.

Rather than the survey itself, what impressed me more was the attitude of them. One young female came to the counselor and wanted to register for the swayamwara. She was looking perfectly normal, she spoke good English and was able to answer all questions. We were wondering why she came to the swayamwara in the first place, though it was none of our business. Just then, she parted her hair which was covering her ears and showed us her ears. She had partial hearing loss and was having a hearing aid for that, without the hearing aid also she could hear a bit, but she was insistent that she would get married there. A big salute to her, many a time we always want to have the best in life, but here a physically challenged person wants to give life to another person who is like her. I felt so small in front of her.

Just then a north Indian family entered the hall, a mother, father, and two daughters. We thought they had come to see their relatives, but we were shocked when we saw both the daughters going to the stage. My God, they were young and so good-looking that one could hardly believe that they would be physically challenged. All the eyes were on them. We were not able to identify what emotions were running inside us, whether we were feeling pity for them or whether we were shocked. One could only hardly fathom what the two girls were thinking at that moment. My heart went to their parents who were watching their pretty girls sitting on the stage waiting for someone to marry them.

Coming back the survey, when we asked whether they would be willing to marry persons with the same disability, they told “yes” without any hesitation. And what if they found out that the fetus was having the disability as them, they told “no,” they would not abort it. I asked the same question to myself, but couldn’t arrive at an answer. Of course, even if I said “yes” that would be only an emotional answer.

Every day life teaches us something, and that day it taught us about how gifted we are to be born without any disabilities. When we came out, all the horn and traffic sounds of Bangalore sounded like music to our ears.

It took us till evening to finish the survey, and we left them all in their own silent world.