“So what do you do, Rama?” Madan enquires politely.
“I am a writer.”
“I am a writer.”
Rama laughs. “Well not in the sense that you think. I do content for a few sites. Some brochures and things like that for companies who don’t want to hire a large agency. Its pretty routine stuff actually.“ She finds it hard to insert a line that she is trying hard to be that kind of a writer. She is working on a first novel, that sweetest and most tiresome of all children. Chapter one is ready, only just, but it’s a beginning after all. She is proud of it, and somewhat embarrassed by the pride.
“I think its wonderful, having your own thing to do. I mean, look at us lecturers, always being ordered around. The principal, the HOD, why, these days, my students are beginning to tell me what I should do. Its so nice to see someone who’s escaped all of that.”
But Rama can tell he doesn’t really mean it. Worse, she feels its only a thin sheath for the curiosity lying underneath, for what he really wants to know, why she doesn’t have a real job. A job made real by the solidity of office blocks and desks, the wickedness of grapevine gossip and the reminder at the end of the month, a dimunitive cheque. She doesn’t resent the curiosity though. She’s used to it by now.
She decides to volunteer the information. That way, he will not be embarrassed when he realises that she cannot understand some of what he is saying. “Well, I had a full time job before. I used to teach as well, at the WCC. But five years ago, I had a bad fall from my scooter when a truck pushed me from behind. Since then, I have some difficulty with my hearing. I mean, its not bad, though my doctors tells me that its likely to grow worse as I grow older. I manage to figure out things using the context if people talk slowly enough.”
She doesn’t tell him though that she tried to get back to work at the college and dropped it after some weeks. It was hard enough to explain, even to her own sister. It would be impossible to explain to a new person that illness morphs you into a different person. Everyone at the college had been more than extremely helpful, less than unbearably patient. In the end, her own awareness of the new limitations being imposed on her, had served to make her put in her papers. She was more comfortable now dealing with a few people on a one-on-one basis rather than a classroom full of demanding students. When she looks at him directly, even a little stridently maybe, to see how he is taking this information, it is interesting to see that he is not disconcerted at all. Only a slight parting of his lips and a leaning forward to take in her words carefully, implies that he has heard anything at all. She likes so few new people, these days. Those whom she knows, increasingly, they seem to shout their words at her, as though she is turning not just deaf, but into an idiot as well. And those whom she doesn’t know, it is becoming harder to read them, in every way. Just as well perhaps. Who knows what uncertain benefits understanding may bring!