'Sorry, I'm a little hard of hearing... I don't always catch everything that is said' ' chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on Wednesday, with a hint of a smile.
Eyes twinkling, Bhattacharjee chose to turn a deaf ear to the flurry of questions on how his government planned to foil Thursday's strike and keep the city in work mode.
'Aami shunte pai ni (I could not hear you),' said Bhattacharjee, brushing past reporters in the corridors of Writers' Buildings.
According to doctors, hearing loss in Calcutta could set in gradually at the age of 50 to 55.
The chief minister, 61, is a prime target, as he lives and works in congested and noisy zones, which can affect the auditory nerves in the internal ear. This prevents sound vibrations from being picked up effectively.
'Please write that I could not hear you... All questions cannot be answered,' Bhattacharjee had added when asked later in the day about his government's (anti)-strike strategy. 'But I will attend office tomorrow,' he slipped in, for good measure.
One doesn't know if Bhattacharjee's attendance record on Thursday would set at rest the apprehensions of his star guest on Wednesday, N.R. Narayana Murthy.
The Infosys chief mentor, after meeting the chief minister, said: 'Strikes are worrying... But as long as the government does not support the strike and takes steps to ensure normal running of business, it's fine.'
If Wednesday's deaf-ear act was any indication, government measures taken to ensure normalcy on Citu strike day would be few and far between.
Transport minister and Citu vice-president Subhas Chakraborty confirmed fears of government inertia during the bandh.
'I can't guarantee whether buses will ply. They will ply only if the drivers report for duty. However, those who want to come are free to do so,' said Chakraborty, adding that it was a workers' strike and they could keep away from work if they chose to.
On the eve of the 24-hour strike, the 61-year-old chief minister, however, had managed to deflect some attention from the city's impending harassment to his so-called hearing impairment.
When Metro lobbed the question to doctors, the most common reply was: why not get an audiogram done'
'I am not sure how to take the chief minister's reported hearing impairment, with concern or good-natured disbelief,' said Shantanu Banerjee, a leading audiologist.
'But seriously, his could be a case of noise-induced hearing loss, affecting a lot of Calcuttans above 50.'
The prescription: use of an advanced hearing aid, either digital or analogue.