When John Milton wrote, On His Blindness, arguably one of his most revered works, he was almost completely blind.
Inversely, as I write this, I am almost completely not-deaf. Finally, in my senses. Somewhat. It’s great to get back to ‘normal’—if there’s any such thing—or is it?
Two weeks ago, I had lost the ability to hear. Thanks to an annoying rendezvous with a cold that liked me so much that it overstayed its welcome. It infected my right ear and made thoughts, words, sounds, noise—sometimes my own—alien. It felt like people were talking to me lightyears away. Like I was talking to myself lightyears away.
I realized, how oblivious I was to my ears, and every little thing I heard. Whether it mattered or didn’t. Whether it was worth it or not. But when you lose the ability to hear, you have to double the effort to use the little ability that’s left to hear. This also means you tend to listen to even trivial, ignorable, slight things that you couldn’t care less about.
And because of your lack of hearing prowess, you tend to strain to hear which sometimes appears like you are taking interim interest in petty things. Like the color of the new Rs 2,000 note and how it has ‘nano-technology GPS’, which is absolute bullshit. Nano-technology and GPS are as compatible as demonetization and a migrant worker. They don’t work well together because one has nothing to do with the other. Severe lack of logic gets me worked up. With my half-ear, I gave them an earful.
In that list of trifles, there’s another wedding in the family. Alright, that isn’t petty but weddings are over-rated. And the more weddings I attend, in whatever capacity, the less and less I want to hear more of it. Ah! Hear. And because I couldn’t hear, I thought I’d be spared. But no mercy for the disabled. Not even from your own family.
What to sing, what to dance, what to wear, how to look, I am asked, like I am the Google of weddings. They send me songs that I can’t hear, they sing to me when I can’t appreciate, they show me clothes that I am not thrilled about, and they share choreographed sangeet performances that make me want to pop my antibiotics—even when I don’t need them.
Worse, you can’t even say their demands fell on my deaf ears or like they say I can’t even do ek kaan se suno, dusre se nikaal do. The right ear is blocked. No outlet, bro!
I should have broken a few bones or lost my memory or something. The sorry fact that I was hard of hearing, sadly didn’t qualify as an excusable disability.
But there’s always a silver lining. I am glad I was able to lend an ear, thankfully the one that was working, to a friend who needed it the most. I had to not merely just hear what she was saying, I had to listen. Sometimes, you don’t need ears to listen. Okay, at least not both. You only need to listen. Just that.
The first time I read On His Blindness was over ten years ago. But it has stayed with me to this day. And I don’t know why. I don’t even like it that much.
Not like William Wordsworth’s Daffodils. That, I truly love. It’s such a happy poem, such a happy place:
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
As long as you can feel that, who needs ears?