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Deaf in Delhi: A Memoir by Madan Vasishta

Madan Vasishta, in their memoir Deaf in Delhi, narrates his life experiences as an individual suffering from hearing loss. Set against the backdrop of the 1950s in India, Vasishta’s narrative provides insights into his life challenges as a dead person, particularly in a society characterized by poverty, stigma, and lack of support. However, his unwavering spirit, optimism, and determination put him on the path of self-discovery and success. The research paper analyzes Deaf in Delhi, providing individual thoughts on the book, particularly what one feels about the content and impression of what it is like to be an individual with hearing loss.

Reading through Vasishta’s memoir provides a glimpse into the life experiences of individuals affected with hearing loss. The text provides an individual perspective on the challenges and emotions associated with the disability. The memoir elicited a wide range of feelings as I got to understand Vasishta’s journey as he underwent different phases of life. One emotion elicited was feelings of empathy and understanding, especially after waking up and finding himself unable to hear after being sick for two weeks with mumps and typhoid. Also, his narration of seeking remedies to cure deafness elicits empathy. For instance, in a bid to cure the condition, he was brought for homeopathic pills to take, and he was taken to visit different doctors and sadhus, mainly comprising of holy men, temple priests, and those considered to have a direct line to gods (Vasishta, 2006, p.17). The several attempts to cure deafness without success make one empathetic towards his situation as his life got turned upside down in just one night.

Feelings of gratitude and appreciation are also evoked, especially towards his close family members. Although some members provided unconventional solutions that led to Vasishta experiencing frustration, it is clear that they were willing to help him overcome the situation. One individual who provided immense support to him was his elder sister, Brahmi. Vashista states that Brahmi was a firm believer in home remedies, to the point of learning to make some that she perceived would help in curing her brother. It is depicted when they state,’ Sister Brahmi learned from an older lady how deafness can be cured by steam from milk. She had to, of course, invent her system for introducing steam from boiling milk into my ears’ (Vasishta, 2006, p.23). Despite the skepticism with these methods, her initiative depicts an individual with genuine concern about the well-being of their loved one. The home remedies adopted by the sister bring into question the nature of society in the mid-20th century, particularly in relation to the societal attitudes and beliefs towards conditions such as deafness. Home remedies adopted by Brahmi show that unconventional treatment methods were in the period, and her skepticism towards conventional medical practitioners was based on her perception that licensed practitioners were only looking for money (Vasishta, 2006, p.23).

Additionally, the text underscores the significance of facing adversity, challenging preconceived notions, and pursuing one’s aspirations despite certain conditions that are assumed to limit normal human functioning. Vasishta has to adjust to his new reality, and reading through the text shows how he overcame challenges. I find him a resilient and determined individual. For instance, he continued to seek educational and employment opportunities, eventually landing a prestigious job as a Professional photographer at the National Physical Laboratory (Vasishta, 2006, p.162). This triumph reflects individual agency and self-empowerment that pushes individuals to achieve success in the face of adversity.

The reading has provided a personal impression of what it is like to be an individual with hearing loss. The first impression is that one becomes vulnerable to negative societal biases and stigma. Many people living with disabilities are viewed differently. They are often accorded derogatory terms and offensive labels, thereby impacting not only their psychological well-being but also their ability to function and engage in day-to-day human activities. This negative societal perception is witnessed through Vasishta, who describes how people with hearing impairment are treated. For instance, Vasishta describes the case of an old deaf man in his village who had no name, and as young boys, they used to make fun of him and refer to him with terms such as bola, a derogatory Punjabi word that is used to describe someone who is not human (Vasishta, 2006, p.5). It is a clear example of how disabled persons are treated in society as they face discrimination and stigmatization.

Another impression noted is the psychological impact of deafness on the affected. Discovering that he has lost his ability to hear prompts Vasishta to a wide range of emotions, considering that he had also taken an active part in stigmatizing the impaired, such as the older man in his village. In the initial stages of reflection, he grapples with fear, embarrassment, and resentment, depicting how individuals who find themselves in such situations are affected. An additional impression is that some are able to engage in introspection as they come to terms with their new reality. As Vasishta does, they reconcile their sense of self with societal attitudes, enabling them to engage in a journey of self-discovery as they strive to attain life success as their able-bodied counterparts.

In conclusion, Madan Vasishta’s memoir, Deaf in Delhi, provides insights into the life of individuals living with hearing loss. Reading through text elicits different emotions, including feelings of empathy towards the individuals and gratitude and appreciation to family members who provide support. An individual impression of them is that they are vulnerable to societal biases and negative psychological impact. However, through introspection, they are able to partake in a journey of self-discovery.


Vasishta, M. (2006). Deaf in Delhi. Gallaudet’s New Deaf Lives.


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