I was suddenly overcome with a genuine fear -the fear of loss of hearing. I imagined myself turning around in wonderment at what was being said, because of course, I had somehow lost my power to hear. This terrible fear gripped me in such a stranglehold that I intensified my efforts to hear, even managing to hear the unsaid.
My fears, of course, were not without ground. I had just returned from a trip to Guruvayoor with my aunt, uncle and my daughter. We were visiting my aunt’s aunt who was a teacher.
The kind and gracious woman, teacher valliamma as she was called, was also a perfect host. My uncle, Ravi chetan warned me ahead.
“Lekha, don’t leave your cup half filled. Teacher valliamma will fill it off with out even asking you. She will just pile food on to your plate and she will not take no for an answer.”
And this actually happened, I noticed that my uncle who was talking to someone turning with surprise to see that his tea cup has been refilled by the triumphant host, teacher valliamma.
After tea, when we gathered in the hall, the elderly members in the family were watching the age-old telecast of the Mahabharatha. Finding the volume too high, Mani chechi took the remote control to reduce the volume. When it did not reduce in spite of several attempts, she realized that her aunt, teacher valliamma was pressing the volume button on the TV!
Teacher vallliamma’s husband shared that his wife had perfect hearing and that years of teaching and shouting at her students had affected her adversely.
The teacher in me heard the comment with a nervous smile. As soon as I landed in Indore, I rushed to a specialist. The doctor insisted that my ears were in perfect condition. I though, insisted that he do a thorough check up. Finally the doctor prescribed some ear drops and shunted me out of his clinic.
I had often seen my students shut their ears to prevent my shrill voice from damaging their tender ear drums.
I lived in perpetual fear of losing my power to hear due to my own shouting.
I thought that my fear was misplaced until today when my neighbor who rarely sees me asked, “Are you a Malayalee?” and I replied “No, I don’t have malaria” not once but thrice till my neighbor kindly intervened to say ,” Uncle wants to know if you are a Malayalee”.”Oh!” I said, “I am”, a little shame-faced.