The Sound of Silence


Portrait of Nilanka. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

Stories have a way of arriving at my doorstep quite unexpectedly like my Gotukola kids.  This is another one —  Nilanka’s story –  one of the many unsung heroes amidst us. 

It was an ordinary Friday, but my do list was long.  On top of “My to Do List” for the day was getting the roller garage door serviced. The first telephone call said the servicemen were lost.  I had given directions to Chapel Road, but the board at the Nugegoda junction says “Chapel Lane” said the guy.  The confusion I later discovered was the board at the Nugegoda town end that had always said “Chapel Road” had now been suddenly changed to “Chapel Lane.” Finally, we managed to sort it out thanks to the presence of the ubiquitous mobile phones and three men arrived all crunched in the front seat of a little half-a-loaf truck.   

Ladders and pumps, buckets and mops came out, plug points were found, high pressure water pump got activated and the work started.  Jeevaka led the team work and worked on the door cleaning from outside while Nilanka perky cap on head, was up on the ladder busy scrubbing the door from the inside. 

The door had remained dormant for 5 months during my Dhaka sojourn and now groaned and grumbled when I opened it. I spoke to Nilanka wanting to know what the status of the door was and whether they required extra detergent.  Completely engrossed in his work, there was no response.

Nilanka at work. Photograph©Chulie de Silva

There was me yapping away while Nilanka remained totally absorbed in his self contained activity. It seemed to me getting the door checked was his one objective. Watching him suddenly the penny dropped.  Nilanka was hearing impaired.  I had to get Jeevaka to tap him on the shoulder and ask in mime whether it was OK for me to photograph him.

Jeevaka was surprised I had noticed and he filled me in.  Nilanka is a qualified technician and he is not the only hearing impaired technician employed by the firm.  “First there was one, and he got the others in” said Jeevaka with a grin.  “He works with me and is learning all the skills well,” he added.  It was really good to see how one firm had made room to absorb Nilanka and his friends.  More importantly it was good to see how his co-workers treated him as a buddy  and how Nilanka himself  had overcome life’s limitations by learning complex skills.

This was Flow in action – I could endorse — the way to happiness lies in a mindful challenge.

Note: “Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person in an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity. Proposed by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, the positive psychology concept has been widely referenced across a variety of fields.

According to Csíkszentmihályi, flow is completely focused motivation. It is a single-minded immersion and represents perhaps the ultimate in harnessing the emotions in the service of performing and learning. In flow, the emotions are not just contained and channeled, but positive, energized, and aligned with the task at hand” ( from the Wikipedia).

Outside the garage door the sunlight was too bright and hard for photography at mid-day, but the story won’t be complete without one of the three friends.  Take one  in front of the vehicle said Janaka, the driver — one for the road so to speak.

The trio of friends: Janaka, Nilanka and Jeevaka. Photograph©Chulie de Silva


Though the silence never ends
I can hear
I can hear:
A dove in flight
The sound of sunlight . … Read the full Poem: The sound of Sunlight by Anna M. Stott.

6 thoughts on “The Sound of Silence

  1. What an inspiring story. Am delighted there are companies training the deaf who have much to teach the hearing in “Flow.” Such a patient, observing person you are! And to share even better.

  2. Hi Chulie
    This is such a positive story in these difficult times. Your photo conveys your story so well. More postings please !

  3. Madam Chulie, touching story. We get a peep into your home life — roller garage door and part view of the cosy house 😀

    Jokes apart, perhaps get this published. Should go a long way to encourage differently abled people to knock on company doors, and encourage others to hire them

  4. Do you remember the old Nina & Frederick song?:

    “O listen to the ocean
    Echoes of a million seashells
    Forever its in motion
    Moving to a rhythmic and unwritten music
    That’s played eternally…..

    The Silence of Day
    The Clamour of Night
    The heat of the day when fish don’t bite
    These are the things that remind me of
    The days you sailed out of sight.”

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