Big Ears

At my first GP training practice, the senior partner asked me why I wanted to be a GP. I said that I liked talking to people. He dismissed this and told me that I needed to learn how to listen. Yes, the classic Sir William Osler quote: “Listen to your patient – he is telling you the diagnosis.” True, but you have to listen to a lot of (ir)relevant base metal to discover the gold which solves the case.

I thought of this recently when I was at the India Habitat Centre. I was rehydrating and cooling down after wandering around Lodhi Art Colony like a mad dog/Englishman one summer Sunday. The visual art gallery was showing an exhibition of relatively unknown young artists, discovered by curator and promoter, Amrita Prakash. She told me that she found them on Facebook, where they displayed their work.

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“I’m all ears”

In the centre of the gallery there was a fibreglass sculpture of a human head with massive ears, like radar dishes scanning for messages. Normally, I don’t look much at the explanatory cards accompanying artworks; I try and sort it out myself. But this card was interesting.

Art represents life. In general, deafness is poorly understood. It is a common misconception that deaf people live in a world of silence. . .sound is vibrating air which the ear picks up and converts to electrical signals, which are then interpreted by the brain. The sense of hearing is not the only sense that can do this, touch can do this too. My hearing is something that bothers other people more than it bothers me. There are few inconveniences but in general it doesn’t affect my life much…  Sometimes people have to put (their) hands on the ears to listen to what others are saying. It’s like they wish to have bigger ears so that they could listen properly. This is what I have tried to project through this piece of art. . . I can lip read to understand (rather than) having bigger ears.

Two young men were taking lots of photographs of the fibreglass heads. One of them, Vivek Kumar, was the artist. He came and sat with me, reading my lips and getting some sign help from his friend. Most Indians speak English at the back of their mouths, almost with their teeth clenched. I hope that my enunciation made it easier for Vivek to understand what I was saying. I asked him if I could use my photo of his sculpture “My Voice II” when I teach consultation skills and he was delighted to consent.

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Selfie with Vivek. Gosh, I look knackered.

The other paintings were interesting. A few caught my attention.

The cheekiest painting was a watercolour of thirteen green chillies, entitled “The 13 Moods of My Wife”.

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By Dr Alfred Prunesquallor

Maverick doctor with 40 years experience, I reduced my NHS commitment in 2013. I am now enjoying being free lance, working where I am needed overseas. Now I am working in the UK helping with the current coronavirus pandemic.

4 comments

    1. The weather has been brutally hot here in Delhi over the last five weeks. There’s little humidity, but a blistering wind bringing dust from tinder dry Rajasthan to the city. Just another week to go before I leave. Hope you are well. I enjoyed your posts. BWs, Ian

  1. Much like poetry, I don’t *get* a lot of art … but add the artist’s commentary and it becomes a completely different experience. I try to *see* their interpretation and it’s always enlightening.
    I would never have guessed the artist was deaf from the Big Ears sculpture. I would have guessed everything from *wisdom* (ie the elephant, listening to learn and gain knowledge) to *eavesdropping*.
    Very interesting!

    … and yeah, the last one was very cute 🙂

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