A Unique Paradigm Of Expression


Words play such a significant role in our lives. We express our emotions, our ideas, or strong opinions using words. It is evident that language is the most plausible means of communicating our dreams, desires and aspirations. In moments of joy we convey our delight and euphoria using words of felicity. On the contrary, when heart-broken we share our misery and gloom engaging elements of speech exhibiting melancholy and sorrow.

This freedom of expression that we possess as autonomous individuals is often taken for granted or compromised when we begin to believe either of the two notions; ‘no other voice matters but mine’ or ‘my vote is inept’. In this process, we tend to disregard the convenience with which we undermine the naturally gifted metacognitive skills that help us draw these conclusions.

This realization came through when I embarked on a short journey, returning home after a hectic vacation in Pakistan. The holiday was a challenging one. One that brings with it lots of questions and is crowded with expectations. The struggle was to finally get through the airport rituals and get back home. All through the process of loading suitcases and monitoring the kids, the mind remained jumbled up with thoughts that kept the senses engaged in a conflict and strong dialogue.

While I followed the trolley with the luggage, many questions popped up. Why can’t people just move on in life? Why is it such a task to just accept people as they are? Oh why do people shout to win arguments?

The children dragged themselves towards the ticket counter. “Stop running will you!” I shouted at my younger son who never sits still. He looked at me wondering what had gotten into me. My husband seemed annoyed with the crowded space and the anxiety of our subject to load seats filled him up. He signalled me to find a place to sit as it would take some time.

I sat across the hall in the waiting area. Our sour moods had transferred to our children and there was continuous bickering. I scolded them off and on. The body had given in to the exhaustion of the mind. I saw some couples enjoying the waiting while some seemed hassled with the uncertainty. The events of the seven days had completely drained my energy.

Finally, we received the boarding passes. In usual circumstances, that would have been accompanied with a victory dance, but not that day. “The seats are randomly placed. So, you can sit with the youngest and I’ll manage the other two.” My husband informed me while he strapped the tags on. I was rather glad to have been detached from the scenario that demanded conversation and discussion.

We boarded the plane and separated as the seats were far apart. I settled in with my youngest son who immediately started to play with the control panel that managed the inflight entertainment. I buckled him up and allowed him that little freedom to remain busy.

Normally I would worry about my children being placed independently without any help. But somehow, I just wanted to close my eyes and follow the departure of the plane leaving the baggage behind. The flight took off and I opened my eyes. That’s when I heard him groan. I looked to my side.

It was difficult to calculate his age. He seemed like a teenager. His mouth remained open with the groans becoming louder. He had a blanket covering his legs but I could see the deformation quite clearly. My thoughts came to a full stop. He had his parents sitting right next to him. I was looking at him intently but he seemed oblivious of that attention. The pressure in the cabin would incite him and he would begin to groan even louder showing his annoyance. The mother simply held his arm firmly and shushed him.

I placed my head to the back rest and felt deep helplessness. He could not move his arms or legs. His eyes were fixed on the table tray opposite him. They did not look around to observe the people or admire their energies. He could not stand up and take a step to feel a sense of achievement. His arms could not embrace the arrival of a new day. He had no words.

The food was served. I tried to get myself busy with feeding my son who happily picked up his delicious buttered bun and started to enjoy it.

The hostess had left a tray for the disabled boy and moved on. There was no motion. He sat gazing at the seat in front of him. His mother got closer to him. She held a towel in one hand and started to feed him. It was the most hurting spectacle and I have never been able to erase it from my memory. His mouth remained open. There was no understanding of closing it with the food in. His saliva dropped along with food particles and very little went in. He didn’t know how to gulp it in and the mother kept on cleaning his mouth and filling it. She fed him everything that was on his tray. Most of it ended up on his napkin on the lap but nevertheless, she wanted him to taste it all. He didn’t have any words to express joy or dislike, wanting more or having had enough. His mother gently nudged him on the chin and gave a slight push to close his mouth indicating the end of the food session.

By now, I had completely forgotten about my holidays. The trays were collected and lights were dimmed for people to relax for a while. I looked at the family. The parents were busy talking to each other, communicating about routine events. The boy was still staring at the seat. Then suddenly, there was a ‘chuckle’! His mother turned towards him and laughed at the sudden outburst. She placed her hand over his shoulder to give recognition to his emotion of happiness. I felt tears in my eyes. And I felt so ashamed.

My problems appeared petty in this young boy’s presence. My fears for my children suddenly felt un-necessary. My anger and frustration over a seemingly beautiful life just became meaningless. Did I even qualify to have any grudges? Life could have been just a groan or a chuckle with no words in between. No agreements, disagreements, no opinions. And then, would there have been complaints?

Our lives are valuable but our voice truly defines our individual identities. Though we explore through our childhood, discover the pains of being a teenager, observe the determination of being achievers and witness the blessings of living a worthy life, yet we haven’t really learnt what it is to be alive.

The patience with which his mother fed him, the desire with which she helped him taste each and every food ingredient, the recognition that she gave him for his groans and his chuckles through her calm and serene gestures, truly set a new paradigm of expression for me.

By Shama Mir