“Gokul… Gokul…” No response from Gokul. I try louder and longer this time, “Gookkuuulll”. The boy so much as doesn’t even look up. I go closer, shake his shoulder and he immediately peers up at me with his wide grin. And it strikes me; he cannot of course listen to my calling him out. He doesn’t respond to sound. Gokul’s hearing is impaired.
This happens with us often where my friend Deepali and I take a weekly art class for a bunch of gregarious and mischievous kids in a hearing impaired school. We are so accustomed to sound responses that despite being aware of their aural challenge we keep calling out their names and they are oblivious to it all, lost in their own mess of colours and glue.
In the past few months, I have inevitably received two most wonderful gifts in every class from this sprightly and peppy lot. When my friend and I walk into the class each time, we see the most genuine expression of joy almost elation on their faces. It is like a sudden wave of excitement and welcome engulfing us. In all these year I have never seen anybody so happy to see me, trust me it is the most affectionate reception I have personally known. Of course it neither makes us the most important or lovable people in their lives nor does it imply that we aren’t lovable or important to our own families and friends. But it is the sheer expression of their delight which touches and warms me every time. Communication is a huge challenge between us and yet they are full of stories to narrate to us. From a sibling born to one of them, a classmate’s birthday, a fight in the class to their sport’s day, we know all. And every time we leave, they flock around like little sparrows to confirm that we shall return the next week.
I believed that they give us this kind of attention, warmth and welcome because we try to bring in some fun time. We endeavor to give them that simple but cherished childhood enjoyment of mess with paints, paper and glue, which is missing in their lives. It is just a pleasant time off from their otherwise mundane routine. And hence all the loving hullabaloo. This might be true to an extent but just the other day I visited another school for special kids and my experience there made me think again.
I reached there around breakfast time and since the person concerned was busy I waited outside their dining hall watching the inmates squabble and eat. Just then I caught something funny, a teenaged girl had enough idlis in her plate which didn’t look very palatable to her. To her right was a pile of dirty plates, next I see her stealing a moment, glancing sideways and dumping her idlis beneath one of plates in the pile. To her left was another plate with an egg still there. She lurked at it quietly and the next second she had two eggs of her own. She looked up and our eyes met in mischief. I gave her a conspiratorial knowing smile and she returned the same. We both knew her secret. Soon after, she came by and so did many others to where I was standing, waving keenly and smiling gleefully.
I wasn’t in a particularly great mood that morning but this casual visit just shifted my focus. I thought these kids, some even adults didn’t know me in the slightest, I wasn’t even doing them any good unlike the art class kids and yet they were so forthcoming in their cheerful greetings for me. And they are no saints; they are brats, as troublesome and instinctive as any other children. But strangely what sets them apart is their lucid expressiveness of positivity. While we with all our seminars, books and talks on happiness, positivity, blah blah, find it so unachievable to send across a simple effortless smile. As per research, people who are socially and emotionally deprived, which these kids are, are very sensitive and quick to accept and reciprocate affection at the first gesture of it. But what’s truer to me is the fact that though their minds might not be as sharp, their hearts are innocent and incorrupt which makes their goodness overflowing.
The other thing which I experience after the classes is a deep sense of thankfulness washing over me. You begin to look at your life with a different sight. I realize that I am immensely fortunate to have woken up in good health and to a healthy family. I don’t have to depend upon others generosity to feed and clothe my kids and most importantly I was born in a family that could afford my physiological, social and emotional needs and I am in a position to do the same for my children. I’ll admit that this sense of blessedness is very ephemeral and temporary, it’s snoozed the next morning I get up but these intermittent reminders yet help me admire my benevolent reality in spurts.
I told you that I was in a sort of petulant, scratchy and inharmonious mind frame when I had gone to the other school, I was like that patch of dark cloud, fully laden but doesn’t pour out releasing itself instead disintegrates its blackness bit by bit and sullies the entire sky. However, at times the sunshine streaks through unpredictably turning the somberness into light. So exactly fifteen minutes later when I left the premises, I felt very light.
Random smiles and gratitude play big in mood alleviation. Very recommendable.