(Happy New Year!)
As most of you know, I allocated 27th December 2019 as a Voiceless Day: partly as a social media advertising device, and partly as an experiment in the life of my protagonist, Hridnaya.
Hridnaya is a Voiceless servant, whose purpose is to enable her employers to be waited on and assisted during secret or possibly secret conversations without worrying that information will be betrayed.
She therefore has no tongue, is forbidden to learn to read or write, and discouraged from developing sign language. So she cannot talk intelligibly, although she can make sounds and gestures, of which there is a very small standard repertoire (yes, no, this way, I am Voiceless, I need a favour.) Her situation is described as being restricted to “grunts, that people who knew her [well] understood as long as she wasn’t saying anything unexpected.”
She also can’t eat normally, or indeed anything except mushed-up food, but this I did not copy. I did however decide to ban myself from reading and writing – since this includes typing it meant no computer activity, social media or texting.
My first difficulty was to choose a day. I cannot do my job or attend church satisfactorily without talking, and I was rapidly running out of Saturdays before Christmas, so I chose a rather atypical day on holiday. I dread to think how I’d have managed at home normally, unable to do anything useful except housework, which as everyone knows is not my strong point. But we went away this year for Christmas, so the desktop was in any case unavailable and I had the constant company of my husband and son. Both of them were extremely supportive and helpful. I chose to run the project more or less midnight to midnight.
In case I forgot what I was doing, I thought a reminder note would be good, placed where I’d see it first thing – the note of course had to be pictorial.
In fact it was surprisingly easy for most of the day to remember not to talk. There were a few failures, of course, with an automatic “sorry” or “thanks”. But to my surprise I did quite well until late in the evening when watching a TV drama in company. This was sufficiently distracting that I kept forgetting the rule.
With the family’s assistance I was able to go for a drive and a walk, eat in a café, and even play a complicated board game with only slight difficulties. Cards had to be read to me. I pointed to an item on a menu, which was then ordered for me – but I was then rather stuck when the waitress asked “White bread or brown?” Apparently the staff in the café were giving me funny looks.
It was hard not to just pick up a book, especially as I was reading a particularly good one.
I didn’t learn anything especially sensational or unexpected, but perhaps two things.
In writing Hridnaya I made her socially isolated. I now know that this was the right choice. I was not isolated, but I was with my family, and still found it very difficult to take any sensible part in conversation. When I said above that people “understood as long as she wasn’t saying anything unexpected”… I perhaps should have said “understood if it was extremely obvious.” The frustration of having just the right comment and not being able to make it was sometimes considerable. Gestures can only do so much. I don’t know how Hridnaya managed without the “thumbs up” sign, which was essential – but I had no simple sign for “thank you,” a word one often needs.
Not being able to contribute also makes one feel stupid, which was not something I’d thought of before. Something I should remember when in the company of the deaf or anyone with a speech impediment.
Oddest moment of the day: my phone rang unexpectedly. It was a reader who’d just finished “The Servant’s Voice”, and wanted to talk to me about how much he liked it.
He had to wait, and so did I.
Love from the PPI Blogger