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Wall of silence

Illustration: Sonal Goyal   | Photo Credit: Illustration: Sonal Goyal

As Arvind bit into the kathi roll that he had taken from Tanvi’s lunch box, he smiled.

“Yummy!” he said. “So Tanvi, have you thought about the questions you are going to ask your grandparent for our English writing homework? My grandfather lives in a village in Karnataka, so I will think of the questions I want to ask him first, and then call him.”

“My grandma lives in London,” said Peter, butting into the conversation. “But she’s on Whatsapp with me, so I can easily send my questions to her.”

Arvind noticed that Tanvi, always the first to discuss her ideas, was unusually quiet.

“Hey,” he said, “let’s hear your questions for your grandpa.”

“I can’t ask my grandpa any questions,” Tanvi replied shortly. “Then, after a short pause, she blurted out, “My grandpa is not talking to me!” Tanvi’s expression was anxious and puzzled.

“Why’s that?” asked Peter immediately? “Did you disturb him by making a lot of noise when he was taking a nap? Or, did you do something really naughty to make him cross?”

Possible answer

“No!” Tanvi shot back loudly, shaking her head firmly. “I haven’t done anything wrong at all. It’s so strange. Grandpa is quite rude to me these days. When I ask him something, he just ignores me.” Tanvi’s voice shook a little as she finished her sentence, and her face mirrored her distress.

“Oh,” said Peter in surprise. Then, as he and Arvind digested Tanvi’s words, another shrill voice suddenly piped up.

“Tanvi, I bet I know why your grandpa ignores you when you speak to him!”

Everyone turned to look inquiringly at Meera who was closing her lunch box.

“The same thing happened in my home too — my nani kept ignoring many things that my mother told her. Then we discovered that she is hard of hearing.”

“Hard of hearing?” Tanvi looked even more confused when she heard this. “What exactly do you mean?”

“It means that your grandpa can’t hear very well any more, because of his age. He does not hear your words when you speak to him, and so he does not reply. So, you think that he is ignoring you...”

“Oh, gosh!” Tanvi murmured slowly, “I would never have thought of that!” Tanvi’s eyes lit up, but in a moment, she looked at Meera uncertainly and asked in a rather subdued tone, “But how can I be sure that my grandpa is actually hard of hearing?”

“I’ll tell you how,” Meera replied confidently. “When you find that your grandpa is not responding to your words, go and stand close to him, and speak loudly and clearly. Some people are hard of hearing only in one ear — so you will have to stand once on your grandfather’s left side and at another time on his right side. If your grandpa still does not respond to your words, then write your question on a piece of paper, and show it to him. If he reads it and responds, you’ll know for sure that he’s hard of hearing,” Meera finished triumphantly.

“But what will happen then?” Tanvi asked worriedly.

“Oh then he will have to go to an ENT doctor…” Meera began.

“What does ENT mean?” Arvind cut in curiously.

“An ENT doctor looks after patients’ ear, nose and throat,” Meera explained. “The ENT will give your grandpa a hearing aid — it’s a small machine that is tucked away behind the ears. It will help him to hear better. My nani can hear clearly with her hearing aid. She switches it on and off by herself. But I know how to do that too! Whenever I need to ask nani for extra pocket money, I make sure her hearing aid is switched on!”

To be continued...

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2021 6:19:35 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/children/wall-of-silence/article27779072.ece

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