Brother of a very good friend grew up with the tag ‘slow’ till he was 12 years old. He was beaten mercilessly by the teachers and mocked by his classmates every day of his life. He told me how he used to hide behind the trees and bushes so he didn’t have to participate in sports and how the gardener used to snitch on him and tell the teacher where he was hiding. Things changed when his sister completed MBBS and had a light bulb moment.. that her brother is actually short sighted. ( very very bad case of Astigmatism) He is exceptionally brilliant and missed out on schooling in his formative years and didn’t have the will to undo the damage and fight. Today he works as a special ed teacher because he believes that no child should ever go through what he went through..(We now know why he never participated in any sports.. he couldn’t see a thing)
My parents found out I had severe astigmatism when I was in grade 2. Their world practically collapsed..because of the amount of dowry they have to pay for me..already slow in studies..and now blind as well.. Elementary schools in those days practiced seating according to rank and me being the class idiot had the last spot…odukkam benchil odukkamatthey seat was mine..permanently. Now, when I look back, I know for a fact that I never heard a word the teacher spoke..I was so clueless..even for homework because I didn’t hear the teacher’s instructions. The tag slow and stupid was forever imprinted on my own psychic. It was even more hard when everyone talked so high about my oldest sister and how brilliant she was..and then looked disappointingly at me.. The first time I wanted to run away from home I was 9 years old. I actually did. I walked all the way to the CSI church the only place I knew outside my home and beside the school..which for a 9 year old was really a far distance.. like almost to the end of the world.. but once I reached there, I didn’t know what to do or where to go.. so I walked back home.
When I was 10 years old, my mother registered me for summer classes at the children’s library.. Amma wanted me to learn dancing and I wanted to learn to play guitar. After begging and pleading, she relented. There were lots of kids in he class… and everyone had to sit in a large circle and the teacher spoke..obviously I couldn’t hear him.. and when everyone was playing the chords, I sat idly. Some people have an affinity for picking on the weakest..in this case the teacher loved picking on me. One day, in front of the whole class he asked me something.. and I couldn’t hear him.. I smiled and nodded my head..
What he asked me was “When you come tomorrow for the lessons, Will you forget the lesson I taught you today?” Happily I nodded my head and said Yes.. I can still hear the mean laughter that followed…. and after the class, the students pointed me to other students in other classes and everyone was laughing at me. I stopped attending the guitar classes after that.. and got in to bigger trouble because the teacher complained to my mother that I was skipping classes she already paid for..
When I was 11..it finally occurred to my mother that there was something really wrong with me.. I never heard her, when she called me from behind..and one day she took me to the district hospital from school, I can still see myself walking to the hospital.. wearing my school uniform..the ENT doctors clinic was on the first floor… it over looked the main road.. and a branch of flame of the forest was almost reaching the window..and I remember thinking how much fun it would be when the tree is actually blooming.. you could lean across and grab the flowers.. I sat on the little round steel stool.. and my mother explained the history and the doctor watched me.. and then he talked to me..and I replied..then he covered his mouth with his hand and I couldn’t hear him.. I still remember the shock on his face.. he told my mother, this was the first time he has seen a patient who could lip read without actually being taught to do so. He had warned my mother years ago to do the tonsillectomy cause associated adenoiditis was known to damage auditory nerve.. But my parents were scared to do the surgery.. what if I didn’t wake up after anaesthesia..
I remember walking out of the clinic.. I didn’t feel sad that I was deaf.. I was relieved that I finally knew what is wrong with me.. But the worst was yet to come.. When we went to the hospital we took an auto from the school.. As we got out of the hospital entrance.. there were autos parked on the left side and I slowed down.. thinking Amma was going to take an auto.. but she was mad.. really mad..and she dragged my hand and started walking back to the school.. and then she said
“I had asked the doctor (I can’t remember his name) for an abortion and he told me that foetus was more than 3 months old ( when amma had mumps) and won’t have any damage.. If only I had the abortion.. “