Voiceless twin divers

Tata Sumo, as it was called, took us into the territory of Dolakha Bhimsen, the second brother among the Pandavas of Mahabharata who later became husbands of Draupadi. The roofless temple has a sweating stone idol believed to signal any bad fortune before it takes place in the country. Except the recurring mishaps that fall upon villages and highways around the gurgling Sunkoshi river. Many vehicles have been tossed into the river thirsty for innocent lives. Every year many take their final dive into the river to escape the fear of living a life devoid of any meaning. For each incident, viral conspiracy theories claiming ill-intention behind the accident or sins of past life pop up in and around the village. Rituals follow each mishap. Just rituals, not the cure.  

For their poor and illiterate parents, birth of the twin brothers was no less than a misfortune that nothing could have signaled when they were still unborn. Rituals were not deemed useful for this particular mishap. The very lack of ritual was a resounding set of rituals. Their life was seen as a burden not just for their parents but also for their own future selves. Unable to speak or listen a single word, they were deemed as worthy as rotten log of fallen oak tree. Voiceless in a literal sense, they were abandoned to play around the river hoping for the worst to happen ending their seemingly meaningless and worthless life for good. No sign language could deliver their parent’s message to their hearts.

The misfortunate moment was successfully not signaled by the Bhimsen. Every little dive they played as child turned the twins into a little bit better swimmers. Each time they returned from the mouth of death, they were equipped with an additional rare skill. Now, they are hired to pull out dead bodies after failing to signal a mishap. Sometimes, they successfully save lives too without the use of language we are familiar with.

They had no language to use. Not the language we call language. This essay is about the language they use, the most indigenous imaginable if indigenous means unaltered and un-imported. Unaltered by the constructed realms of linguistic weapons that rest of the society use to basically destroy each other.

A team of academics from Disability Research Center (DRC), Kathmandu University School of Arts was on a ten day trip to the districts of Dolakha and Sindhupalchowk to study the status of inclusive education in several schools including some special schools for deaf and blind children. Many narratives and stories were floating around the schools, huts, and fields on the outskirts of the town.

The story of the twin divers was an example of a momentary and rare victory of man over nature which is always determined to crush and kill human endeavor and comfort. Man’s war against nature is the cruelest, longest of all wars though the long run scorecard is always in favor of the later. The luckiest two too are not going to escape the final perish that awaits them ahead. No Drake equation exists that can predict the chances of their surviving the killer currents of muted Sunkoshi and inaudible dry landslides of bulldozers. Maleficent monsoon flashfloods and cracking trees never knocked the door before pounding the innocent victims from behind.

The story, if it can be said so, is always behind my mind since then. It inspires me and it makes me surrender all hopes for man. It shows how cruel we are, how finite our thoughts are and how narrow boundaries we draw in our mind to roam our life around are. All the metaphors that we prey on to survive the dreadful one way corridor between the two shades of darkness makes no sense for these literally illiterate twins. The notion of literacy and language, their localness and foreignness makes no sense to me. Indigenous or adulterated. Do they even care or know? What is the language they are using?  What the sound of their inner voice sounds like?

In one of the primary school we visited, everyone except the teacher was deaf.  With their welcoming smile and passion to listen us in a piece of paper, we were immediately surrounded by kids of my children’s age. I was surprised by the adulterated language they were using to make their points with us in the piece of paper. Asking my imported name and home address, they surrounded me. Their eyes were jumping up and down in a hope of having a sight on the paper I was writing my name. Like the blind students in another school running in narrow, muddy and unsophisticated pathways in the school premise full of terrain without a tiniest bit of accident, these children were navigating our noisy presence without any error.

We are all Africans by origin. We ourselves are adulterated beings, genetically, culturally, ethnically and linguistically. How seriously would a Martian consider our definition of indigenousness? If a language being an indigenous has any meaning, the language of the twin divers is the most indigenous imaginable. They have not learned any word from the outside world. The signs and symbols are the only thing they have imported through their strange closed ones. The closed ones who went numb at the very first sign of their voiceless ness decades ago. Who knows whether they have internalized those imported signs, whether they use these imported symbols or whether they have adulterated their “indigenous language” with the imported signs and symbols. Actually, the voiceless and textless language we speak with ourselves is the most indigenous language for we are our own voiceless twins from inside. 

The language of the twin divers is the most endangered language in the universe with only two users destined to disappear in vain in a matter of decades without creating a single institutional memory in the form of written poems, songs, stories, essays and novels. The language was created by them and will get burned down in their own pyre. No language commission exists to preserve and promote their language. No one dares or bothers to understand their stories and listen their poems. No conference, no advocacy and rights movements.

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