Thursday, July 30, 2015

Two illiterate nurses - II

Soon after the previous nurse I had written about, I got another nurse who had never gone to school. Apparently, girls in  her village (near Trichy in Tamil Nadu) were never sent to school. (This was some decades ago. Things have changed now - her daughter is in college now.)

She was a bit better at telling the time as compared to the previous nurse so giving feeding and medicines on time was not a major concern. This nurse was a Tamilian but she could also manage some broken Hindi and broken Malayalam, having picked up these languages while working in the houses of various patients. For some reason, she concluded that I did not understand Tamil inspite of numerous pieces of evidence  to the contrary. She persisted for over 20 days speaking to me in half-baked Hindi and Malayalam and I couldn't understand half the things she said.

She seemed to love the sound of her own voice. She would keep talking even if no one was paying attention. She would sometimes talk to herself in the same loud voice which would often make me think that she was talking to someone. Because of her constant chatter, I couldn't hear a word on TV when I was listening to the news but her conversation was fun to listen to so it was ok.

She had a peculiar habit of  speaking in the first person. Her name was Kamakshi, so she will say, 'Today Kamakshi is not feeling well.' Or, 'Kamakshi has a headache.' Or, 'Kamakshi is not feeling hungry now.'

At most times she talked to me with the realisation that I understood what she said. But sometimes she lapsed into thinking that I didn't understand anything. Once she told me, 'I am going to the terrace to bring back your cloths'. I blinked 'ok'. She said, 'I had hung them out to dry., I blinked 'ok'.  She said, ' They would have dried by now, I'll get them.' I blinked 'ok'. She said, 'If I don't get them, you will not have cloths to wear tomorrow.' I blinked hard - 'OK dammit'. I breathed a sigh of relief when she finally went to the terrace.

An interesting incident happened once when I was watching TV. There was a cartoon of Narendra Modi who she didn't appear to recognise. She just said, 'Isn't that person looking scary!' I asked Jaya to find out if she knew who the PM was. She didn't seem to know. She just knew that during elections, there was one party led by Jayalalithaa and another one led by Karunanidhi.

I was surprised by a comment that she made. She said that she would not mind having to do things like sponging, washing clothes, etc. the whole day but what she found difficult was having to turn the pages of books! I had thought that it was the other way around.

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