Updated: Dec 22, 2022
They say the strongest of us are often the most tested by life. It takes soul-crushing willpower to rise from a shortcoming that shapes our life once and for all.
“The Deaf Musician” by Srinandana Sarma shows how a young boy loses all hope after an accident but doesn’t cave into fate’s play & stands up for himself.
Earlier today, as my mom dropped me off at my music class, I felt different. I couldn’t hear the air, but I could feel it and hear the honks of vehicles. I could smell children screaming with joy on the side of the road. In the past few days, I’ve nearly recovered. All my senses except the hearing seem to be working well. Maybe that was what my music teacher was talking about; the feeling of not being able to accomplish anything on my own has gone away. Feeling independent feels great, again.
I lost my hearing sense following the incident. When the festival season arrived, we started lighting crackers. Massive fires raged all over the place. An enormous cracker misfired and exploded massively just next to me. Chaos reigned all around. As soon as I saw everyone was okay, I was unable to hear anything. My eardrums burst when I heard the gigantic noise. I was bleeding as I checked. I lost consciousness, and I fell to the ground quite unconsciously. The last thing I saw before collapsing was my parents running towards me. I had no idea what was happening. I distinctly remember getting into that ambulance, later lying on a stretcher in a hospital lobby. Then, all of a sudden, I was completely disoriented.
My dizziness arose several days after my surgery and operation, and everyone was gesturing and showing signs to me. I thought they were crazy until I saw my parents. They were doing the same thing as everyone else. My ears did not work. All I could hear was tinnitus and a few buzzing noises. Suddenly, I realised that I could not hear any sound. Tears started falling as I realised I could not hear anything. My head started hurting, and I was depressed. A part of me was screaming, “Why is it always me? Why do I always have to give up on my dreams?” Even machines were no good. I couldn’t even listen to what I was saying. I was very sad and down. I didn’t know what had happened to me. I didn’t know how to cope.
In the last few months, days have become nights, and nights have become days, but the people around me did not change. Several people pitied me, saying that I didn’t deserve that. I thought it was pointless to say that. I mean, who would deserve that? All of the pityings were simply unnecessary to say. Thank God I couldn’t hear them, but I felt their pity. I’ve just given up on everything, from my music to the people I care about to my dreams and goals, and as a result, I felt lonely. In any case, I can’t read my own words for what they are. It was so stupid of my mom to forcefully put me in the Support group. It made me even more, worse than before. Joining a deaf man in a Support group is actually a foolish idea.
It was difficult for me to express myself or receive anything. Scrolling through the texts filled with heart emojis just made me mad. Why do they do that? It’s obnoxious. When I had those mood swings and was feeling irritated and depressed, I thought music could help. I know that sounds crazy, but it used to help me in the past. So I pulled out my violin and tried playing.
Though I thought it would help, it didn’t. The tune was off, as I could feel by touching it, and the strings were twitchy, just like my mood. I shut down in anger, and I felt like I was nothing but a loser. A musician who loses his sense of hearing is nothing but a loser. I threw my bow away and started crying.
I felt like I needed some air, so I ran off. Despite not knowing where I was going, I thought I would be cured by running away from my life. But as the clouds began to weep, I stopped running. In comparison to my tears, the sky’s tears were many, and I thought its tears were bearing far more pain than mine. My tears were covered in raindrops, and I felt nature steady my heartbeat.
My needs were to be hugged and comforted by someone, and I received them from the sky. I also learned that running away won’t cure me but will just break me further. I was soaked too much and caught a cold. But, the lesson I learned was astounding and a blessing. I went home and received scoldings from my mother but felt the underlying intention behind her anger. Slowly, as the days passed, the pieces were reattached. But the shards are too far apart and cannot be found or fixed. However, I will work through it. I thought there shouldn’t be dusk in my life.
I used to write to my mom on paper to facilitate our conversations, but I no longer need that. I learned ISL, which is a special language for people like me. This helped me approach anyone. After a few days of struggle, I got a few text messages from my old friend Bunty. He said, “Oi boi, don’t get depressed. You’re always smiling, and I’m never mad. LOL. Hope you’re doing well.” Another message followed, “Now we miss your sarcastic remarks here. So we’re offering you this chance to visit the academy. Sir mentioned your days a few days ago. Now, I think we can fix that. There’s a surprise waiting for you. Come to the academy on Tuesday at 6 o’clock.” Then, after reading his texts, I realised I had found someone who didn’t pity me. My friends were again reaffirmed to me. My anger and pain hurriedly caused me to rush out that day, but now, I’m scared to place my foot out. I’m just worried about the invitation. This is a Sunday, and I got one more day. The word “surprise” sparked both curiosity and dread.
The day had finally come, and I was going to the music academy. I asked my mom to come with me to go to the music academy together. When they saw me in the music class, everyone froze. The look on their faces conveyed so much emotion. My lunatic friends always did something crazy with me. Bunty, Swiss, Levi, and Tobi embraced me by falling on me. It was scary, but I was so happy. As soon as we greeted them with abundance, they invited us in. My teacher and I both looked into each other’s eyes. His large dark brown eyes were frightening, but they eventually smiled.
Both of us communicated in our own languages. I was unable to pick up his sign language, but it continued to go well later. He spoke about everything, and Bunty bought him a note. He handed it to me. It read, “Those who play string instruments do not need ears to understand. We have the other senses to feel them. We feel them by touch and vision. It’s not an issue if you do not hear. It’s not an insurmountable barrier. There is some power in music that can change the impossible. We will be happy to have you back at practice. You possess a good sense of music. If you are back, you can tune yourself. You might change something.”
My teacher wrote that note, so all I had to do was follow him. He will help me with everything. I didn’t want to admit it, but tears flooded as soon as I started reading that. I came to know that he wrote the note himself. Both my mom and I agreed to that, so I’ll be returning to class soon. This is the surprise Bunty talked about. So, my mom treated us to a milkshake for our special dinner at Pop’s diner. I finally got a proper milkshake and some fries with everyone after many years.
It isn’t just about the words. You need to do something as well. I thought it would be easy to resume, but it wasn’t. I felt resuming my music was pointless. I still wasn’t able to feel it. Despite being a cringy disabled man, I found it difficult to throw myself out of that miserable state. I saw everyone flinching from the terrible sounds I was making with my violin. Maybe, I am unfit. Violins are melodious instruments, but only if we play them melodiously. In the past few days, I have not observed any change. However, my teacher has been very attentive and very strong towards me. It was like watching Charlie Chaplin’s movies, even without any background music.
I could not comprehend anything. Because of my curiosity, I asked my teacher to tell me why I couldn’t do it and why he was concerned about me. He just grinned but didn’t answer my question. He gestured and then said that soon I would catch up. I later received text messages from Bunty regarding the questions I had asked my teacher. He responded simply by saying that I had earned my teacher’s trust quite a while ago, and I am capable of mastering this instrument. I can concentrate and be a good musician even when I do not have hearing sense. In fact, those were his own words. His compliment and impression of me were remarkable. I’m grateful for his efforts and concern for me, so I decided not to let him down and to work hard as much as possible.
I gathered my thoughts, filed my nails and took out my violin. I recalled all the lessons from the beginning. I responded to the vibrations and kept playing. That cleared my mind. Later, I struggled with the notations as well. In addition to my practice, I took out my metronome, adjusted the speed, and turned it out. Everything has a backup; even the metronome has a pendulum, which helped me know the speed. I asked my mom for help if I could match the speed with her. However, the beginning was not good at all. After a few days, I came to realise that I should slow down my speed. I was going too fast. I got it done later. Overpowering my heartbeat were the vibrations.
Having returned to the academy after the monsoon holidays, I participated in a presentation. My practice helped me perform flawlessly. I received praise from everyone. After getting back in the groove, we started doing real exercises. We learned about finger reflexes, stave notes, and much more. Although it took me longer to get the hang of it than others, I was still able to catch up to them in time. I finally formed my own crew. We hit Pop’s diner every day to discuss our future plans and practice over milkshakes. I could read their lips and recognise their expressions. After music changed my life, I finally gained the strength to speak. Now, I no longer need to make signs to speak, but I still need signs to listen. My dreams still seemed far away. The only thing I need to do is have patience and wisdom.
As my lessons advanced, so did my practices. Life has sped up, as it took me five years to complete my graduation. Getting my graduation certificate was an honourable and unforgettable moment. I was able to accomplish that through my passion. I solved the problem just by imagining the beats and following the vibe. During these six years, I experienced many feelings. I learned the true meaning of life. I fell down many times but rose up again. I slowed down numerous times but got pushed up by my friends. These people stayed with me and helped me a great deal. Now it’s my turn to repay the debts. I helped and built a Residential music class. It has now grown to become a very big academy in honour of my teacher and friends. My actions led to me being acknowledged by many people, and I was asked to participate in several concerts along with my master and mates. This increased my self-esteem, and today I teach at our school. It’s the beginning of my career as a teacher, but as a student, it will never end. A day without learning something is a wasted day. So I learn a lot every day. My hearing may have been impaired, but I didn’t lose hope. As long as I have that, I am capable of achieving anything. It’s now my turn to give my pupils that same hope.
This short story is available in paperback & ebook.