After Covid days, not exactly over, I undertook a journey by train, to and fro Bangalore to Cochin, mask on, non-AC compartment, whatelse, ya no outside food, basic precautions.
The train is two and half hours late, that will be around 11 at night. It is better to wait for the train at the railway station since that is where you have to board rather than waiting for it at home and making a last minute rush, along with spoiling other’s time (we can go to sleep once this guy leaves).
The train arrives, I get in, most of them are sleeping and I find someone sleeping on the lower berth allotted to me. The guy tells me, all these berths belongs to us ( he meant his family members, may be 3 or 4 in number), you can take any of them. “Shall I take the top berth,” I asked him, we are hardly seeing each other in the dim light. I was fine, a quick thinking, that since this train is late, I can comfortably be on the berth as long I reach my destination.
Next morning , I took my seat next to a family (handsome husband, pretty wife and daughter, and cute son). The wife asked, “You slept well ? thank you for being accommodative, sorry for the trouble”. “It was fine, don’t feel sorry for sending an old man up”, the effect was funny, more than it was intended to be.
They were going to Ajmer, after a day’s stay in Bangalore. The girl was cheerful, smiling not saying anything. I asked her whether she was studying or working, she looked at her mother and her mother communicated to her in sign language and told me “she cannot speak”. I had to cover up the shock I got and almost spontaneuosly replied to their coolness, “I attended a course in sign language, six months, 2 days a week”
“What made you learn ?”
“The classes were being conducted in a college, I met lot of students, who looked capable, scoring good marks.” “I wanted to know the language, spread its awareness and make others know its power and usefulness in communicating across the country to overcome language barriers”.
“It is important to tap their talent, get them into the mainstream and be given equal opportunities in the job market “
“Discrimination challenges, lack of opportunities and acceptability, all are hindrances”
I kept bragging about famous names who are challenged personalities like
Helen Keller,blind and with hearing loss, later learned to speak
Beethoven, who lost his hearing capability at the age of 26 and…
The husband interrupted, “ they lost their hearing later in life, generally children are unable to speak because they are born deaf, like my daughter”.
The mother took over “she is involved in lot of activities, she is doing her masters in communiction (I think it’s advanced course in sign language), she is a software developer, builds apps, works for NGOs, busy with social services, earning well…”.
“She is not handicapped and is living a great life, much ,
more purposefull than you with all your faculties working, Mr. Dumb, just shut up and learn”, I thought to myself