Sound Of Silence
Sound Of Silence12 mins 479 12 mins 479
THE COSMIC DANCE
The pulsating music from the music system in the plush air conditioned room of the house on the outskirts of Washington DC was reaching a high crescendo. Murali sat in a far corner of the room, as usual, watching his mother dance with rapt attention.
Mala was doing the tandava today, the divine dance of Lord Shiva. Every movement was nuanced, natural and graceful. Mala had always experimented with her dancing routine. She was doing a hybrid version of the famed tandava today. Something she had been working on for a long time. The Rudra Tandava depicts His violent nature, first as the creator, later as the destroyer of the universe. The Ananda Tandava depicts him as enjoying in the Shaiva Siddhanta tradition; Mala had not only mastered it but went beyond to create a combination of Rudra and Ananda forms.
Mala found release in dance. It began as a hobby and then passion. When her son was born and untold miseries were heaped on her, her dancing changed character. Now she danced for release, salvation and death.
The Silent Witness
Murali was seven years of age. He would sit at the far end of the room where his mother danced in all her fervour and glory, barely understanding why. His gaze would be fixed on her every movement, her facial expressions, and her changing emotional states. He would feel the irresistible pull and his spirit would escape his frail body and mingle with unseen fields of energy. The force of Mridu Angaharas (limb movements) flowed in his own small limbs, the rasas (sentiments) mingled with his own, the Bhavas (emotional states) began to affect him like a virus, and the kriyas (actions) were slowly coming to life within him. All this was happening without either mother or son realising it.
Murali was deaf since his birth. As is wont with such children, this handicap had also made him mute, though there was nothing wrong with his vocal chords. In his early years, he was blissfully unaware of what speech meant to him, but now he came to slowly realise about the challenges he faced. He was however rapidly learning to live in his own silent universe.
He could not hear the music but feel the waves. He could not grasp what his mother was doing, but the rhythm and energy could be felt. No one was teaching him, yet some universal force was all the time conveying messages to him. That day, when his mother was doing her tandava dance, Murali could feel the force of the rhythm inside, and a voice shouting at him to get up and dance. While his mother was immersed in her divine universe, Murali was struggling to resist the temptation to dance with her.
Even as Mala felt drained by the violence of her emotions, she saw her boy get up and dance. She watched him in utter disbelief and then fainted. Murali was dancing to the music without being able to hear it. He was copying her movements and facial expressions without any practice or learning. A miracle, if you believe in one, had just happened.
Dr. Vishwanathan, Murali’s father, was a gold medallist and the topper in Madras Veterinary College. His hard work got him recognised by the American Institute of Animal Health and now lived in Washington with his family. He could not bear the sight of Mala and Murali. He carried the heavy burden of his guilt.
He was raised in Shaiva traditions and led a Spartan life. Yet God had chosen his son for punishment for sins committed by him. A sin born out of his ignorance but one that could not be reversed now or ever.
How will he survive as a deaf-mute? What would he think about his parents when he gets to know the truth? One corner of his rational mind could understand that handicaps like this have happened to a million children. He had heard stories of children overcoming worse situations and there was always hope. He had full faith in God but yet despaired. Murali would soon begin to learn sign language and would be able to express himself fluently. But the odds were stacked against him in his life. And he had none other to blame but himself for this.
Viswanathan's chain of depressed thoughts was broken by the ring on his mobile. It was Mala telling him about the miracle she witnessed.
Viswanathan and Mala had married without much fanfare. In fact, it was a marriage that was never to happen. No one in their combined families was in favour of their union. What they were doing, in the eyes of one and all, was nothing short of heresy. It was, they were told, a cardinal sin and even God, whose job is to forgive sinners, would not accept the marriage.
When they announced their intention to marry, not even his staunchest of supporters would agree that this was right. Marrying your cousin was clearly prohibited in the shastra. There was in existence a prevalent custom of marrying relatives from the maternal side. A girl can marry her maternal uncle but marrying a relative on the paternal side was taboo. Even the ancient texts which laid down norms for marriage proclaimed such a liaison a sin.
Ever since their marriage, their families refused to acknowledge their presence far less forgive them for what they did. For them, both were dead and there was no way this could change. Mala got pregnant with Murali and they were both delighted. Murali was born normal and it was only after a while that it was discovered that he was deaf.
The world around them collapsed. They went from pillar to post for a cure. They sought explanation from doctors about how such a thing could happen. None of the explanations satisfied them, until one of the doctors asked them about their marriage. When their relationship was disclosed to the doctor, he immediately explained that in their case the marriage itself was the cause. Consanguineous relationships such as theirs are known to have caused disabilities in offspring.
From that day onward, their lives changed. Guilt and remorse filled them up and left no room for any other emotion. Mala immersed herself into dance and Visva in his job. They barely conversed and when they did it was about their sin and the suffering of their son.
After ages, it would seem, the house was once again alive and buzzing. Mala and Visva could not stop talking and neither of them wanted to sleep. Mala spoke excitedly:
“This is divine grace. I have read somewhere about the power of music and dance; about universal force that drives the art. It must be the work of some divine forces. He saw me dance and felt the music. He must have intuitively received the waves of energy and started learning. Who knows? But what I saw was real and cannot forget it. This miracle has given us new hopes, a very important lesson for us. Both of us had perhaps given up on Murali, surrendered to dark forces and buried all our hopes. We never thought there could be life under the ruins of our life.”
Visva said:“I am keen to know what the future holds for our son. Let’s consult some good astrologer and get his horoscope done.”
“You believe in horoscopes? What did our horoscopes say about our future? Look what happened to us.”
“I do agree that not everything can be foretold, but a good astrologer can definitely read things. There is no harm in trying. It’s up to us to take it or leave it. My friend, Radhakrishnan is a good astrologer and he will surely guide us.”
Visva spoke to Radhakrishnan. He did not disclose about Murali’s disabilities and simply told him that he wanted a horoscope of the boy done.
Two days after this conversation, Radhakrishnan rang up Visva. He told him that he had finished casting Murali’s horoscope and was rather intrigued by something.
“Look Visva, this boy has an incredible horoscope. The planetary pattern at the time of his birth is pretty bad. I see a lot of trouble for the boy. I suspect he already has some problem, what I cannot say. ”
Visva told him about Murali, about his marriage to his cousin and the tragic consequences.
“First of all, I do not believe that your marriage caused this problem. Now, if you believe that there exists a Maker, you must believe fully and not partially. The Maker does not discriminate between good and bad, we do. The Maker does not create imperfections; these are products of natural forces. Coming back to Murali, though he is born with a disability, all is not gloomy in his life. My reading of his horoscope suggests that he will be very successful. Fame and fortune is written in his life. This should make you and Mala happy and I strongly suggest you take good care of the boy. He will make you both proud, mark my words.”
Fame & Fortune
Mala was amazed at Murali’s progress. It seemed that the child had suddenly been unchained from something that was holding him back. He would not tire, wanting to dance all day long. He watched his mother and picked up exactly the same movements and expressions. He was also creating new expressions and movement that at first intrigued Mala. It was as if he wanted to talk to her, urging her to understand his language and teaching her something.
Mala, on her part, found it difficult to keep up the pace. She was the teacher and the student at the same time. She soon realized that he was improvising on her hand movements and expressions to convey things to her. It was no ordinary sign language; it was his language that he was developing.
One year had passed and Murali was ready for the stage. The news about Murali had spread and the auditorium was packed to the rafters. Most came out of curiosity, having heard stories of the boy with a handicap and his mother. Murali was the underdog and no one expected him to turn in a master performance.
The show was a roaring success. No one could believe that there could be a dance performed without any music. The boy created his own music inside him. The local press was there and the papers carried stories of the couple and their child prodigy.
Murali was bringing joy in their lives, and they were happy. They took him far and wide and got so immersed in the newfound happiness that they forgot about his handicap; until they received a call from Dr. Bryce. He asked them to come to his office.
“Hi Vish, hi Mala! I’m happy you guys could make it to my office.”
Dr. John Bryce hugged them both and ushered them to his well appointed office in New York City. After the preliminaries were done, Dr. Bryce got to the subject:
“Have you heard of Cochlear implants? No? Fine, so then let me give you a bit of interesting information that could help your son, Murali. Around the late sixties in America, there was this gentleman named Adam Kissiah, an electronics instrumentation engineer who worked at the Kennedy Space Research Centre of NASA. He was suffering from severe hearing problems for which he was seeking cure. He developed what is now called the cochlear implant. It is an excellent device to restore hearing for the profound deaf.
I read about your son in the paper. I have personally done hundreds of implants with much success. I therefore called you, to tell you about this wonderful invention and how it can restore your son’s hearing ability.”
“Dr. Bryce, thank you so much for what you have done. At the moment, we are not too sure about what we want to do, since we have barely heard about this procedure.”
“Vish, all I am trying to tell you at this moment is that there is hope for your child. I suggest you take your time on this.”
The possibility that their son could hear thrilled them, while doubts about the procedure and its efficacy haunted them.He was doing fine without hearing and they too had just recovered from their guilt ridden emotions.
Mala and Visva began a meticulous research on the subject. They sourced all possible information and discussed with many doctors. The pros and cons were discussed and analyzed. After two months of study and discussions they took a unanimous decision to give the implant a try.
The surgery went off well and declared successful. However, what followed was beyond what they imagined could be the worst.
Murali had, since his birth, lived in his universe which was as silent as the empty space above the earth. The sound of the mortal world was suddenly thrust on him, and made him feel threatened. His intuitive language was no more valid in this new world and he could neither speak nor understand the new language. He could not stand even the slightest of sounds and cowered in his bed. His parents were shocked and taken aback with this reaction. The doctor had cautioned them to give the boy time to come to terms with his newfound ability to hear, but the boy was reacting with such violence that they feared for him.
One year later…..
“Ladies and gentlemen. I stand before you all today, humbled by your faith in my talent, the immense love and affection you have showed in me. It is your combined prayers that have brought me back on stage after one and a half years of struggle. I am happy to be able to speak to you in your language today thanks only to the efforts of my doctors and my parents. My parents did not give me up when I was deaf and they did not give me up when I struggled to come to terms with sound. I understand what they must have gone through all these long years but I am glad to have made them proud today.
Believe me, it was a really wonderful experience to live with the sounds of silence where the universe spoke to me in a different tongue. I felt miserable and terrified with my new universe when I regained hearing. I lost my sense of existence when my silent universe no longer spoke to me. I wanted to run back to it but felt trapped! How many times I wished to pull out the implant !
My parents, my pillars of strength, thought it would be easy for me to speak their language once my hearing disability was remedied. Let me confess that living in silence was easier for me than trying to live amidst noise. It was challenging for me to accept a new way of speaking, used as I was to my own version of sign language. It is just like you trying to learn a language foreign to you. It took me time to crawl slowly out of my world into yours, but I did it. Here I am, standing tall and proud before my parents and all: of you.
I assure you that my life will be used to entertain and enthrall you. Thanks once again for all your love and affection.”