turtles in our own shells

Sometimes silence can be beautiful and humbling. On World Disabled Day, I went to Cubbon Park's Bal Bhavan for a government-organised function. It was the usual kind of event -- you know, where babus give dry speeches about existing schemes, unused funds and so on and where corporate types stress the need for 'partnerships' (involving big monies and big projects for their own corporate entities!). It was pretty dry, pretty predictable.

Then something happened.Some of the deaf and mute adolescents standing on the fringes started carrying on an animated conversation among themselves. As I watched fascinated and a little shamefaced to be such an flagrant observer, the young men laughed, joked, kidded each other -- all in complete, absolute and perfect silence. Hands waving, fingers flaying, eyes rolling, they talked. Of what, I don't know. But I saw their joy. Their utter camaraderie, and harmony. And seeing them, I, in my 'normal' world of speaking tongues and seeing eyes and hearing ears, felt inadequate. I felt I infringed on their world. My normal-sized body suddenly seemed Amazonian.

I felt ashamed for being so casual about the things they will never experience. They will never say "I love you" or "I hate you" or "I miss you" to their loved ones. They will never know what it is to break into sudden, off-pitch and off-beat song. They will never hear their own voices. Yet, and yet, they seemed so happy. Now when I think of it, I wonder -- are they missing out on life? Or are we? Are we the turtles content to remain in our own shells?

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