About Me

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I love the sunrise. I love staring out into the horizon in front of me, feeling the sun's glow, and losing myself in my own world of thoughts... I love being awake when the world around me is fast asleep, and staring into the distance at the tiny glimmering ball of fire as it shyly creeps into my world… Each sunrise brings to me a new day and with it a fresh start. An opportunity to do things differently, see things from a different point of view... but best of all, an opportunity to ponder over the day ahead, giving a new chance every day to live...

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

I Have a Crush on Atticus Finch (or: How English Literature Saved My Life)

For the uninitiated, I work in the clinical field by profession. My daily grind involves making concrete decisions based on the evidence available to me, and my own understanding of the how the various machines within the human body work with each other in a given clinical setting with imposed external forces. It is a constant learning curve in logic, reasoning, and deduction – as the Gilmore Girls would say, I’m a regular Sherlock Holmes. (Or maybe Watson. Or the sidekick that gives Sherlock Holmes his coffee in the morning. Or… yeah, you get the picture.). We monitor and measure everything. Quite literally like The Police’s evergreen stalker song, ‘every breath you take’ is watched by us. Every rise and fall in your blood pressure, every millilitre of pee you produce, every drop of fluid you drain from your lungs – hell, even every single step you take is observed by us like hawks. Medicine almost has its own language. A language of acronyms and idioms of the various processes and our tricks and potions used, to express how someone poops, pees, farts, belches, coughs and pukes, which we learn to become fluent in as time progresses, and as thus (and particularly with its unusual setting of being in contact with members of the non-scientific public in a scientific environment), is often seen as an art: because we learn to translate these figures into what it means for you as a sick, scared, lonely person lying on a hospital bed, bunking with five other dudes and constantly forgetting where you are and who these nice people in blue who give you pills to take are, instead of being in your twenties and scoring hot chicks like you must have done, back in your days.

But really, despite it being an art – and a wonderful, rewarding, self-fulfilling one at that – the art that really saved me, and the art that I am more excited to share with you than any amount of medical gobbledegook, is the art of words. Being a deaf person (also for the uninitiated – yes, I am hearing impaired), ironically, words became my life at a very young age. Words allowed me to literally visualise what my malfunctioning ears could not hear. Have you ever tried being cut off from one of your five-a-life senses when you were a seven year old? It is daunting. It is life on mute button. Communication on mute button. It is a specialised, short-cut route to Living In Your Own Bubble.

And then words came. In the mind of a deaf seven year old girl, they were suddenly everywhere. (Of course, in the mind of a semi-rational twenty four year old still-a-girl, my perception of the words around me had improved. So they just seemed to be everywhere. Which they already were. I just didn’t see it.) Words came in the form of subtitles on television, in the form of notes on the blackboard, song lyrics on websites, in text messages and the chat box of MSN messenger. Suddenly, the mute button disappeared. I had a way to link my existence to the rest of the world! I now have the keys to escape Living In Your Own Bubble!

Was life that simple? Of course, everyone who has lived even a minute into the adult world (Hint: it involves your eyes widening in excited anticipation of opening your first ever letter addressed to you, ohmygoshhowEXCITING… and promptly your face falling when you realise it is a bill for the implausible amounts of electricity you have used. My advice would be to switch to a lifetime of candles, and who needs the internet anyway?!) will be able to answer that with a resounding ‘no’. You see, in classic Sunrise fashion, as if it wasn’t complicated enough being the deaf little girl in a foreign country with an Indian accent, I decided to add to the complications by just never being a regular girl. It is now such a widely known fact that I have decided to stop pretending I am remotely ashamed of it. I have just never fit in at primary school, or secondary school (or university, but by default, there were other, equally mad hatters like myself so by default, I fit in despite not fitting in, so we will leave that one out). I was always that different girl, for lack of a nicer expression. I watched Bollywood in a land of Boyzone, N’Sync and Vengaboys, I naively went home to my parents in a culture of hanging out to check out boys after school in rolled-up skirts and loosened ties (as Lorelai Gilmore would say, Britney Spears would have been inspired. Now I have that song stuck in your head, don’t I? Oh baby baby.), and I was the girl that was picked last for team sports. Suffice to say, ‘popularity’ wasn’t high on my list of Things To Do Before I Leave High School.

So what does a deaf girl who has come to see words as her bridge to communication do? She seeks that same sense of love that comes from human contact in books, of course. Seems I had bought a one-way ticket back to Living In Your Own Bubble. And oh, how I loved it! I got to go on adventures with the Famous Five, become best friends with the Naughtiest Girl, have a bunch of girlfriends for sleepovers with the Sleepover Club, develop my high school crushes along with Sweet Valley’s famous twins, and understand courage and magic through Harry and his crew. Words carved delicately into the pages, each one flowing onto the next one, each one a living proof of the one thing we all crave for – love. The love with which the author has created a world with those words, were read and absorbed by me with equal love. Those words had given me a friend I really needed. I had fallen in love with art.

I developed a lot as a person with reading. Words taught me to understand the relative differences between right and wrong. Words taught me to appreciate the grey area of human emotions, and of human relationships. And nowhere have words taught me so much as – very unimaginatively – within the four walls of my English classes in secondary school. It has taken me eight years after forever leaving English Literature classes behind, to realise how much my English teachers shaped my thinking, and my love for literature. I had arrived at my English Literature lessons a fresh child with a blind (rather, deaf) love for words, and my English teachers taught me how to tease more out of that love, and challenged me to go hiking with that love to places I have never been to, to question what I have been told, and to question what the world around me really is, to understand the bigger things of life – politics, race, culture, identity, justice, rights, finances, philosophy, religion, law and, I’m sure, much, much more. I realised I was at my happiest when I was analysing what sections of a book meant, what they meant to me, and what they could mean to others, and why the writer chose those words instead of others. I thrived on the excitement of discovering new ways the same set of words can be understood, and through appreciating the genius of writers for writing in such a way, I learned to love words more. They were truly art, and they were art in an itch-scratchingly satisfying way; I could feel myself expressed through them, and I could feel a connection. A communication. Whether the mute button was on or off did not matter any more.

It was also then I was introduced to a man who I later realised would be the love of my life: Atticus Finch. ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ truly has to be mentioned as a book milestone in my life. It was the first ‘grown up novel’ I have ever read, and it was the first time I had explored new horizons: from reading for imagination, to reading for thought. And this reading for thought was what drove me – nay, compelled me – to start to pen my own thoughts down, too. I watched others’ beautifully sculpted words, and I wanted to do the same.

Looking back on it, ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ was also a life-changing moment for me; it was the first time I had realised I thrived far better in social sciences, than I do in clinical sciences. Setting to paper my thoughts on the creative beauty of those words, and the intelligence of their social expression, was such a high for me. And this love of understanding social expression grew further with my history lessons. I learned to think. I learn to explore with my thoughts. I understood what it meant to be ‘lost in thoughts’.

Eight years later, looking down the various souvenirs of bricks, stones and pebbles I had laid down with the path of my life, I can look back and see how much I owe to the written word. (And how much I owed to my circumstances of turning deaf and being a freshie.) I carry the torch of my obsession for expression and writing with great joy (and likely, great annoyance of my friends). Like newlyweds engaging in certain physical activities, I engage in debates wherever and whenever I can, whatever time of day or night, on whatever the topic. I read about the world, and I rant about the injustices of it. I learn from my own poor judgement in narrow thinking. I show others the fallacy of their poor judgement in narrow thinking. I absorb all the grey, non-measurable qualities of life, and I keep wanting to absorb more, knowing the lessons to be learnt are infinite. Words led me to my passion.

Through various stages in my life, I have been complimented for being a good writer. I don’t think this is true. I think the truth is, the power of my thoughts are in themselves tilting the weight of my poor writing in their favour. The thinker that I have become has saved me many times from my own insanity, helped me to cope with some of the biggest losses of my life, and allowed me to make sense of the jumbled mess that is my life. It has helped me to form deep, real, and very strong friendships. Which touchwood I hope will be for life. And I owe this all to the art that has brought me here in the first place: words.