Some communicate beyond language
Good language makes for better communication. Yet, the best communication often needs no language. That’s what I learned from a little girl just beginning to flap her wings and from a couple at the other end of life.
The little story teller
She must have been six or seven years of age. I landed in her class close to lunch time. The children were used to visitors and, right on cue, the teacher orchestrated a chorused welcome.
The hungrier ones were already moving towards their lunch boxes. The teacher persuaded one of them to repeat the story she had just told them. It came out pat, the mouse and the lion living happily ever after without any error or emotion.
This girl was at the back, hand raised, jumping up and down to catch the teacher’s eye, eager to tell the story. I requested the teacher to give that girl a chance before my conducted tour moved on to the next class.
“Once upon a time …” the girl began, panting a little after all the jumping. She soon lapsed into her mother tongue. “Speak in English,” came the sharp rebuke. The girl stopped and started again. Again, English deserted her by the second or the third sentence.
“But I am speaking in English,” she started crying. Her friends were laughing at her. The teacher was getting angrier. My tour conductor whispered it was time to move on.
I knelt before the girl and asked her to tell me the story. She wiped her tears and began. Within moments, everything else vanished. There were just the two of us.
I saw the terror the mouse felt in those round eyes. The almighty roar of the lion emerged from that little mouth. Her hands captured the cowering plea of the mouse. And I felt the anger and frustration of the lion when her entire body fought the net. Then the finale, the triumph of friendship.
The sudden silence brought me back to the class. I didn’t hear what the teacher was saying. I didn’t hear the giggles around me. I just applauded her. Did she speak in English? I had no idea. She had just brought the story alive for me. Language did not matter.
As we walked out of the class room a little tug on my trousers stopped me. She stood there, offering me a biscuit from her lunch box and a wide smile.
They held hands
At the palliative care centre, there were several instances of love and perseverance winning over excruciating pain and crushing misery. Some I witnessed; many the team would share with me.
“I don’t know what you are going to write about this case,” the social worker said. “They just sit and hold hands.”
The husband would come from work every evening. The nurses would have wheeled her bed out of the ward and closer to the garden by the time he arrived. She was too weak to get up. He would sit next to her and hold her hands. During those hours, they were oblivious to whatever happened around them.
It was a moving sight. But the social worker was understandably sceptical. Indeed, what was I going to write? That they held hands?
That’s exactly what I wrote.
He knew she didn’t have much time
Maybe she did too
That didn’t matter
This was out of their hands
The sun played hide and seek
With the leaves and the flowers
And people flowed around them
That didn’t matter
At times they spoke
Most times they didn’t
That didn’t matter
They yet had each other
To love, to care for
That was in their hands
That was all that mattered
So they held hands, always
Dear Vijay, A deeply touching piece - it brought tears to my eyes. The language of silence is something we have all but forgotten, thanks to our progress and social advancements in so many well-documented ways!
30/12/2016 09:14:48 am
For quite some time I did not receive anything from you, sort of missed you. Now the flow has started. This is a beautiful story. The sole purpose of language is to make yourself understood, I wonder why we insist on purity of language.
Thanks for reading, Dr Ghooi! Yes, I am guilty of not being very regular with my blog posts. Hoping to make amends now. As for language, you are right! Being fully understood is more important than being fully correct. The trend is already visible in advertisements.
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