On Being Heard

September 18, 2022by Rajeev Hora0

‘On Being Heard’

Whenever the opportunity arises, my better half makes it a point to remark on my selective memory. While I very often forget birthdays (including hers which is a criminal act for sure!), anniversaries and shopping lists, I can very vividly recollect some incidents dating back to my adolescent age. Inexplicably, these occurrences remain indelible in the grey hard-drive up there.

Well one such memory-recall takes me back to the early sixties when I was a Class II student, moving around in suspender-held shorts which I presume were the fashion of the day. Residing in our immediate neighbourhood was a small kid, nicknamed Deepu by his doting parents. Both the parents were teachers in a local primary school and used to leave the ‘going to be three years old’ Deepu in a local creche when they left for their teaching requirements.

They were indeed a happy family except for a very hurting fact that Deepu was probably a mute child. He just could not or rather would not speak although having attained an age by which a lot many kids are able to express themselves very well. It was not that he did not attempt to speak but would always find himself tongue-tied while trying to express himself. Visits to numerous doctors had not helped one wee bit.

And then one fine day, his mother Shanti left him playing close to a lighted stove, the old Nutan type kerosene stuff, on which she had put a pan full of milk for boiling. She probably got engaged with some other domestic bits and totally forgot about the milk as very often happens in many households. The milk slowly started to boil and rise. Young Deepu was watching these happenings unfolding in front of him and desperately wanted to attract the attention of his mother in the other room.

Normally a voiceless Deepu would have gone to the other room and pulled his mother towards the milkpan. But for some reason, the perceived urgency of the occurrence in this case made him cry out loudly, “Mama, dhood bul gaya!” or in other words, “Mama, the milk has boiled!”

 Hearing the yell, Shanti came rushing, but just could not believe that those magical words had come from her son. She was almost loosing hope that this blessed day would ever come. Overcome with a heady mix of shock, relief and maternal emotion, she hugged Deepu tightly and let her tears flow unbridled like the boiling milk on the stove.

That indeed was a magical moment to rejoice with lots of sweets distributed in the neighbourhood. Thereafter, there was no stopping dear Deepu and he started talking fairly fluently in the next two to three months.

Today I have no idea which walk of life is Deepu in but what has remained with me is a memory of Deepu’s anguish, suffering and helplessness during the time when he knew what to say but just could not express himself through speech and be heard.

I got reminded of Deepu some years back when a senior Army Cdr got talking about ‘Sunwai’ or loosely translated as “being heard”. He remarked that the troops can withstand all kinds of extreme hardships while following a leader if he had the key quality of ‘empathetic listening’ in him. Soldiers all over the world like to share and express their personal and professional issues but really open up and trust the commander only if they get a real sense that they are being heartfully heard.

The same is the case undoubtedly in families and other fields of employment. People often leave kinships and organisations for myriad reasons but the common, omni-present complaint is that “No one listens or I was not even given a hearing”.

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 This freedom to be able to ‘think and express’ without fear and ‘be heard and counted’ lies at the heart-centre of existence and is the soul of thriving democracies, societies and institutions. It therefore needs to be protected against all kinds of violations and attempted subversions.

However,

 This freedom to express is understandably not absolute and must not be mistaken for freedom to spit and abuse. It must always be exercised within the bounds of reason, goodness and civility.

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 If we dig deep into history, we will realize that we have not descended from fearful men, not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were for the moment unpopular. The right to dissent or if you prefer, the right to be wrong is surely fundamental to the existence of a democratic society.

However,

To be persuasive, we must be believable.

To be believable, we must be credible.

To be credible, we must be truthful. 

Edward Murrow

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 Professional dissent is not disloyalty,

Professional Discussion is not denial.

Professional Dispute is not mutiny.

The path to truth lies in Augmentation, not acclamation.

Any organization without a little chaos is Dead.

However,

 There is a time for bold, aggressive thought and there is time to fall in line. Endless argument is tiresome and irritating-it gets into the way of action. Continuous questioning, like endless studies, postpones decisions and action. A decision is reached usually when some outside powers requires it or when the decision maker judges that further information will add very little value. At that point, the process progresses from argument to action. Without a decision, no metal is cut, no rounds put on target.

Rear Adm William Holland Jr

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And lastly, for God’s sake, please speak up and tell me where I may be going wrong before it is too late.

However,

To be heard and to obtain agreement, it is vital to learn the fine art of disagreeing without being disagreeable.

 

Deepu was lucky to have found his voice but let us resolve that people around us never lose theirs.

Amen!

Horax (Casper)

 

First published at seekmediation.com on 17/09/22

Pl share your views on contact@seekmediation.com

 

 

 

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