The Sound of Music
I don’t know the first thing about music.
I learned how to play the flute as a kid. I didn’t like it. My mother wanted me to be a great flautist. I wanted to play the drums. I quit flute class after a year and never picked it up again. I never learned how to play drums either.
I don’t believe in whatever some call destiny, fate or kismat. Things happen and the only thing I know I can control is how I feel about them.
I read voraciously as a kid. At one point, I read 250 pages an hour. I devoured stories. They meant the world to me. I read comics, I read mystery novels, fantasy fiction, thrillers and some science fiction. When I couldn’t afford more books, I turned to writing stories myself.
In the 9th grade I started writing a massive series of books. It would span 9 books in all. For the next ten years I’d focus on writing books over my education.
My process was simple. Wear my headphones, lose myself in my fantasy world and create stories. I love listening to Metallica and ACDC. I’ve written chapters of my books to the tune of Harbinger of Sorrow and Master of Puppets. Music lends me a trance that alcohol hasn’t managed to replicate. I work best when listening to music.
I graduated in 2010, finished my bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, and began my career. I had long nights at the beginning, long commutes and night shifts.
Music kept me sane. It lent me control over things I couldn’t control. I listened to Chester Bennington scream out his depression and it mirrored my own feelings about my life. I was sad and in a dark place. I had hope because there were others like me who were trying to find meaning in life.
Music was a release.
I slowly became happier, found friends who made me laugh with joy and found a career that I absolutely love. I realized I could create wonders with code, make things that I could envision, and I realized that programming was so much fun.
And I let that get to me.
I became workaholic, I spent 12 hours at work and then returned home to code side projects and have work calls in the dead of the night.
I spent a lot of time telling myself I was doing what I love and spending lesser time taking care of my health.
I began interviewing and eventually changed jobs, joining Visa. The work life balance here was so much better, but little did I know the damage was done.
I lost one of my ears on August 31, 2019. I lost it at 7.20 AM, I know the time because that’s when I opened the door to my office cab. I heard a pop, and then I heard nothing else from my left ear.
As the day progressed, I realized that I had lost my sense of balance. I assumed the hearing loss was akin to your ear popping in the flight. I thought I’d get it back. But somehow, I think I knew as the day progressed, that I wasn’t going to get that ear back.
I was right.
By 12 noon that day, my sense of balance was completely gone. I couldn’t walk properly. I puked thrice. Visa offered flexi Friday, so I took it and left for home.
The cab stopped on the opposite side of the road. Crossing the road that day and walking home is the scariest thing I have ever done. And I say this as someone who has thalassophobia.
I returned home, and fell asleep on the floor. I asked my sister to book an appointment with the ENT Department of the local hospital the next day.
I woke up the next day and realized that I was right.
I still couldn’t hear.
I was admitted to the emergency ward since my Blood Pressure was extremely high. 250/180, the doctor said the ear was the least of my problems.
Have you ever been inside an MRI machine? It feels so claustrophobic inside, but without one ear, it feels so much worse. I was given an emergency switch and told that if I press it, they’ll pull me out, but then they would have to start at the beginning.
I didn’t dare press that switch. I didn’t want to repeat the MRI.
All my reports came out fine, and the doctors finally told me what was wrong with me.
Senso-Neural Hearing Loss.
My ailment had a name. I knew him now. I could go on overdrive in researching it.
No known cure.
30% chance of recovery in the first month.
No known cause.
Recommended course of medication? Steroids.
Expected result? Unknown.
That wasn’t very hopeful. My family was in denial. They thought my ear was coming back. I was trying to think of what life with one ear feels like.
Beethoven went deaf over the course of his life. But deafness is absolute. One ear is something else. I needed another model. I watch a lot of Stephen Colbert. I knew the man was one eared. He had lost one ear early in his life.
But it didn’t help much. You can live with one ear.
What does it feel like though?
I cannot tell where sounds come from anymore. I cannot hear you if you come and stand to my left and say hi. I cannot hear my colleagues and friends who sit to the left of me during lunch.
I cannot hear you in stairwells, because apparently two ears are necessary when trying to separate sounds in a poor auditory space.
I cannot hear you if you whisper.
If I sleep on my right ear, I cannot hear the world. One day, I will have children, and the thought that I might sleep through their cries frightens me. What if my mother needs me from another room and I cannot hear her scream?
The world has become so frightening.
I cannot listen to music anymore. I cannot hear Freddie Mercury’s voice move from left to right.
I cannot listen to the John Williams’ Superman theme anymore, because apparently the first thing I lost was the ability to appreciate low tones such as those of a tuba or a trumpet.
I cannot hear the leaves move in the wind. I cannot tell what direction birds are chirping from.
If you call me and then say “Here! I am here!” that makes no sense to me. The words here and there do not compute any longer.
I cannot concentrate on one sound any longer, so if you call me on Skype or on the phone and there is noise around me, I cannot hear you very well.
I need to choose a seat in a meeting room wisely. Because I need to always sit at the leftmost corner of any audience so as to let my good ear hear you.
If I turn my head away from you while you speak now, it is not because I am trying to ignore you.
Indeed, it could be because I am trying to hear you better.
If I stand closer, it could be because we are in an open space and I cannot hear you without you raising your voice.
I am deaf in one ear. I can hear 50% of the world. I just cannot tell where the music comes from anymore.