By T. Ramesh
The atmosphere is one of joy and excitement. Though the 80 or so boys and girls are deaf and therefore are not able to hear, you would never be able to guess from seeing their happy faces. They have a certain joy and contentment that we with hearing can barely fathom. Although these boys have every reason to be bitter and resentful against the world because of their handicap, in their eyes there is a certain joy and expectancy. --Perhaps a looking forward to the day when these handicaps will be no more.
Many of these boys who attend our weekly classes for the hearing impaired did not start out so hopeful. In fact many of the deaf in India are often very frustrated and tend to get involved in many violent activities to vent their anger. There is a great gap between the deaf and the hearing due to a lack of communication. Even the parents are embarrassed of their handicapped child and so seek to hide them. Very few parents speak sign language fluently enough to be able to communicate with their children and this only increases the frustration.
One such frustrated young deaf person is now a leader among the deaf in India. Raju hails from a city in Andhra Pradesh called Visakapatnam and lived in a deaf hostel in another town from the age of 9-19. After returning home life took a down turn for Raju. His parents did not speak sign language and whenever he would try to communicate with them, their conversations did not get past the usual “How are you?” “Are you hungry?” etc. and that was it. There were friends and relatives who would come to visit, but he came to detest their visits as his feeling of isolation only increased since he was unable to understand what they were talking about amongst themselves.
Now, being that Raju is quite good at sports, he happened to travel to Hyderabad to attend a State sports meet. It was during this visit that Raju came to know about our work among the deaf and wanted to be a part of it, but he had to return to his hometown. He stayed with his parents for a year and during that time his frustrations increased. He wanted to do something worthwhile with his life, but with nothing else to do he would just sit at home, without anything in the way of activities other than to watch TV, and that without being able to hear the audio He would get very angry with others and often would get teased by other hearing people who would make fun of him because he was deaf, or find other things to tease him about. All this only increased his frustrations.
Then he received an opening to join a college in Hyderabad and he gladly took it. Since coming here he has been attending our program regularly and the change in him is so absolutely amazing that all of his friends and family comment about it. All his friends say that he is so much more cheerful and relaxed. He doesn’t get angry any more and has learnt to see that he can look at his handicap as a gift from God and see how he can use it to be a blessing to others like himself.
Raju is now a part of our performing team that we have put together. This team has done numerous programs at many schools, colleges and social functions, not just for the deaf, but for the hearing too. And he is so glad to be a part of it. Now he is a happy person who has a healthy self-esteem and is not only fulfilled but also helps other deaf to find fulfillment too.
T. Ramesh is the Project Manager of Voice for the Deaf, a FCF Project in Secunderabad, India