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Unheard Symphonies

“Yes, dear!”

This is the mantra handed down from generations – from one parent (usually the father) to the child (usually the son). Unlike formal education, it doesn’t need to be explicitly taught. An ever-perceptive child learns quickly by example.

A typical household scene. The wife is carrying on the conversation (monologue); while the husband relaxes in the recliner, trying to focus on the sudoku puzzle (or whatever he is doing). Every time the wife stops to breathe-in, he grunts “yes, dear!” The conversation ensues uninterrupted. And the peace reigns everywhere.

The fun starts when ‘Yes Dear’ stops.

The wife felt something was seriously wrong, when her husband stopped ‘yes-dear’ing her. Concerned, yet not to alarm her husband, she expressed her  worries to their family physician. He advised her to carry out simple experiment – talk to him at a distance of 30 feet, 20 feet and then 10 feet AND observe when he responds. Armed with the advice, the wife called out her husband “Dear, will you take the trash out?” No response at thirty feet. She repeated the question at twenty feet; and still got no response. At ten feet, the husband barked “for the third time, I am telling you – I have already taken the garbage out!”

Yup, the yes-dear hadn’t stopped. Only the hearing had!

Talking about ‘hearing’ – Shen had to be on the aid; the hearing-aid! After being in the denial about loss of his abilities (he never recited the ‘yes-dear’ mantra; hence the delay), he caved in (was there an option?) and gave his ears to the audiologists. Not one but both; and not to one but to many.


The adventures began. Shen balked at the cost of hearing-aids; and he assured everyone around him that his hearing had dramatically improved overnight. “In my dreams, the Goddess came, and put her hand on my head, and both ears. The ears popped, and I can hear perfectly!” Eliciting no response, he was about to repeat the statement, when Saanvi touched him on the hand: “Enough, we heard you loud and clear the first time you spoke about the Goddess. Now be quiet, and let the audiologist do her work!”

Waiting for the tests to conclude, he remembered his uncle in Pune, India.


The uncle, wanting the hearing-aid, was given the option – the economy version (costing less than $10; and functioning version (costing about $1,500).
“The economy version is a small white box (size of three Triple A batteries) and a wire coming out of it. You put the box in your pocket, where people can see it; and extend the wire to your ears. People around you rightly conclude that you have hearing problem and talk to you loudly. The other version – actually works. Your choice.”

He did not remember which option the uncle opted for; but he wished he could do so. He opened his mouth to speak, but a stern stare from Saanvi reduced him to gulping the air soundlessly. The fish in the aquarium opening and shutting its mouth.

Sporting the trial pair of hearing-aids, he faced the world. Suddenly, the sounds exploded around him. Though the setting was only at 60% of normal level of hearing, he could clearly hear his own short gasping breath, and sweat trickle as he swiped the credit card for a deposit.

Hearing aid

Two weeks down the road, and being unhappy with the pair of hearing aids (it was absolutely no value for money – with the emphasis on ‘money’), he returned them and got the deposit back. Saanvi had already booked an appointment with another audiologist. Shen found the former option cheaper and better; but couldn’t wiggle out of the jam. Again, equipped with yet another pair, he faced the loud music around him.

The third (and the last one) proved to be much more reasonable in price; and answer to Saanvi’s prayers. The audiologist spoke ‘Shen English’; and convinced him about the advantages of ‘hearing’ against ‘not-hearing’. And the extended five-year warranty, coupled with written promise of ‘free-batteries’ for five years – broke all the resistance.

Ant Playing piano

Thus equipped, Mr. Shen was ready  for the battle. He could hear clearly – besides the traffic and the mundane humdrum, Saanvi’s sweet sermons; Gyan’s backtalk; and Anju’s petulant pouts. The crescendo of cacophony drowned everything. And yet, distinctly at a distance, he could hear -not with his ears, but with the heart –  the Bach Symphony performed by the atom sized ant on her grand piano!

July 2, 2018

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Last modified: March 30, 2023