“It has taken me a hell lot of courage to write this up, but this only means I have accepted my disability and I am in the process of healing myself. Welcome to the story of my life.
So, I have no idea how and when I got the problem since my parents seem to shy away from telling me but from what I know, all of a sudden, I developed froth one night and my father immediately rushed me to a doctor who lived in my apartment in Andheri and in a sleepy state, she gave me a wrong injection which did indeed stop my froth, but it led to an infection in my ears leading to full deaf-ness in my right ear and very low hearing in my left ear which we didn’t know at that time. There, I finally said it. After a while, we shifted to Hyderabad where I was admitted in a normal primary school. The teachers started to notice I could not respond properly, and my parents took me to an ENT doctor who diagnosed me with hearing impairment which would have been due to the wrong injection. My family doesn’t know this, but I still remember the day when my mom cried upon seeing my diagnosis and was scared out of her wits. I, being the two year old I was, couldn’t comprehend what was going on.
Forward to 1 year later, we shifted to Chennai which was to be our permanent residence. I was under the treatment of a ENT doctor based in Chennai. My parents started to search for primary schools for me, and finally when they found one, there’s your twist : They rejected me at first. Those days, they had this mindset that disabled people couldn’t be taught and were refusing me admission. Wonderful, isn’t it? I was being called as a disabled person now. After much persuasion and convincing, I was finally admitted there. Which was a relief for my parents, but it proved to be a total nightmare for me. People would throw stones at me, laugh at my hearing aids, throw water on them and ridicule at my speaking. For those of you who don’t know, hearing impairment affects the speech and hearing impaired people generally tend to be slower in learning. I endured every bit of their torture. We had a small playground which had a swing, and I would be thrown out of the swing on the ground. My head would bleed every single day, and tears would fall from my eyes. I was bullied even by the teachers. And I was only 4 years old. But I wouldn’t tell my parents about it because I didn’t want to burden them, because me being a disabled child had troubled them enough. This school had haunted me for life and has shaped the person I am today.
After my primary schooling got over, my parents finally decided to put me in Sankara school, Adyar where again, I was refused. Again my parents had to convince them and after passing the entrance test, the principal finally agreed to admit me. I felt disgusted and ashamed, that my parents had to plead to get me admitted when I literally wanted to commit suicide. How old was I, you ask? 9 years old. And I was already thinking about suicide. I still remember the first day I came to school, I was scared and trembling looking at the scars at my arms caused by my previous school students, and I wondered and wondered. Will they accept me for who I am? Will they also bully me and torture me endlessly? Will they give me a chance to prove myself? I couldn’t tremble away from the fact that I would again be bullied. My father came to drop me at the school and the moment I entered the classroom, I felt like a normal person. People looked at my hanging hearings aids like they were nothing at all and spoke to me as a normal person. Teachers would sympathise with my condition ( I don’t blame them ) and give me extra attention. And this was the stage where everything started to kick in.
I did not know my alphabets. I didn’t know how to spell or pronounce properly. Rather than sending me to a class for hearing impaired children, my mother, being a MA PHIL in english graduate herself, took it upon herself to teach me a word, day by day. And for that I’m forever thankful. My mother would get me books to read everyday and read words from the dictionary and make me spell. She was my knight in shining armour. I slowly learned to cope up with the others in my class, and performed academically better than them. At this stage, my mom engaged me in a lot of extra curricular activities which was my world of escape, and that’s where I fell in love with dance. Let me tell you a story : I cannot hear the music. Literally, cannot. I have to follow the vibrations on the stage and I would listen to the music over and over again before my performance and memorise its rhythm but it was never a big deal for me, I had fallen so much in love with dance to overlook my disability. I could feel dance.
Abacus was my next love. I went for every single national, international, regional competition that was ever held and won every one of them. After finishing the 10 levels of abacus mental arithmetic, I finally graduated. I cried for days at end because I was the first disabled person to graduate in it, and I felt I was worth something for the very first time. And my self esteem got even better when I won many episodes im various reality shows and represented India for various international Global Art competitions and won it.
Well, it doesn’t end there. Lol no way, my life had to suck. After my first school experience, my apartment neighbours took it upon themselves to mock at my disability every chance they got, they’d throw stones on my car calling me a deaf person, and would throw stones at me. They would hide my hearing aids and laugh at me when I would cry and crawl while searching for my hearing aids. One of them was my senior in Sankara whose name I do not wish to mention, but if you are reading this, I want you to know that I am thankful to you because you made me stronger. Thanks to them, I did not have a childhood. I had this whole box of band aids. I was supposed to be playing with toys and not with first aid, but they made sure I became a lifeless person. The memories still haunts me till date. Fortunately, we shifted to a different apartment after a little while. Let me stop with the bullying part now, because it will go on and on.
The moment I entered 6th std, things changed a lot. My hearing deteriorated so badly, that I could not have a single conversation. I learned to learn lip reading gradually, but I still lagged behind in academics. Dance again, was my escape place. The years that followed was sheer torture, I was ridiculed of my disability again and people did not want to come near me because of my disability. I again went back to my old self, an introvert and would avoid talking to everyone as much as possible in fear of being made fun of.
My arangetram was one of my biggest achievements. The orchestra was to be on the right most corner of the stage which is followed in every arangetram. As you would have known by now, I was completely deaf in my right ear. I had to rely on the vibrations of the stage and the rehearsals I had done for 10 whole months. This was an emotional experience seeing my mother and sister cry their hearts out, because I was doing something I never thought I would be able to do. Things went slightly smoothly after that, but AGAIN, the torture wouldn’t end.
My 11th std was a total changeover. I was in science group for a week, but I couldn’t handle the pressure. I could not follow the lips of my teachers who went too fast. And I had no interest in science and tech too. I begged my parents to let me change to commerce and with the help of my chemistry teacher, they finally relented. My chemistry teacher is the sole reason I am what I am today. Being the naive girl I was, people would often blame me for things I didn’t do and accuse me of ‘ bitching ‘ about people and they continued to mock at me every time they saw me. My hearing again got damaged so bad that I couldn’t even rely on lip reading. Again, I couldn’t properly converse with people due to inability to read their lips which was misunderstood as attitude. There was this page called ‘ Sankara Confessions ‘, where our schoomates could send confessions anonymously and the admins would post it. But rather than being a confession page, it became more of a hatred page towards me. People would ridicule about my speech, about the love I had for my dogs, and my so called ‘ attitude ‘ . My days were filled only with tears. Every message I saw, a small part of me died. I started being self conscious. I was taunted about having attitude and “bitching” about people. How could I have the capacity to bitch and mock at people when I had endured worse? Surely, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone else. I was the most misunderstood person in my grade. As you would have had predicted by now, I fell into depression. I couldn’t master the courage to wake up and go to school and took leave as often as I could, to avoid my classmates. There was not a single day when I wouldn’t curse the doctor. Why me? Why did I have to suffer for her mistake? Why couldn’t I be a NORMAL person? I was paying the price for the doctor’s carelessness. After a while, my parents adopted a dog and we named him Abwin, who was my therapist. No, I am serious. I would hold on to him every night and cry, and whenever I contemplated committing suicide, somehow, every time, he would try to barge in and bark at the locked door. He stopped me from committing suicide every time, and boy I am thankful to him every single day for saving me. After a while, we adopted an another dog named Snowy. My dogs seemed to be my only friends and the moment my school ended, I would run away to home to be with them and cry. I tried to practice lip reading with every youtube tutorial there ever was, but I failed.
I have no idea what happened in the middle, but slowly I started to get a few true friends, who I am forever grateful to for enduring my endless blabberings, and never considering me as a different person. My senior year went off slightly smoothly, but I was still misunderstood. I had such a gentle heart, I couldn’t even have the heart to bitch about someone, having endured worse myself. But I stayed quiet. As my mother always said, karma will take care. I couldn’t blame them though, they did not understand how it feels to be a disabled child. School ended, and I was relieved at last not knowing what my next nightmare was gonna be. I secured 92.2% in my boards and shoved it in everyone’s ass who had called me worthless and incapable of learning. But again, my nightmare did not end there.
Every audiometry I went for, My hands would shake hearing the scary terms my audiologist would speak and seeing the report that was consistent year after year, saying ‘Profound hearing loss in right ear, slight hearing in left ear ‘ . My mom would hold my hand throughout it and after going back home, things would go back to normal ; everyone would pretend as though nothing happened. After a while, my speaking ability began to slip. I tried my best to learn tamil which was my mother’s tongue but it was difficult to do so because I was already trying to speak english fluently, and my disability could only let me learn one language at a time.
So a conversation with a random person would go on like this :
Person : What’s your mother tongue?
Me : Tamil.
Person : Oh, so how come you do not know tamil?
I could only laugh and say deal with it, but inside I was dying. I was scared to tell my disability which would make everyone think differently of me. I would go home, and again cry and fall depressed. I would hardly eat, I lost 5 kgs and I developed anaemia. I would faint every single time and my parents would think I was sleeping but in fact I was faint and unconscious and was unaware of the world around me.
Fast forward to college admissions, the colleges that I wanted to get into again refused to admit me because of my disability. This kicked me hard. I finally gave up. I decided to end my life rather than suffering every single year. I still remember the day.
June 18th, 2015. I somehow brought poison, locked my bedroom door, and opened the bottle. I was 2 seconds close to consuming it, when all of a sudden my family’s faces came to my mind. All they have done is encourage me and bring me up all these years, and I couldn’t bring myself to give them pain. I could not be selfish enough to end my pain and pass it on to them. I calmly cleaned my bedroom, discarded the poison somewhere my family could not find, made a decision, went to the hall and told my parents to enrol me in SRM University. I then proceeded to take my dinner, watched my serials, and went off to sleep. The next day, I got admission in SRM. After a while, the college I had been trying for finally agreed to admit me, but I did not want to join a college who did not accept me for who I was. So I declined. I could not bring back my primary school memories back after they had haunted me till date.
I am healing now. I used to be so depressed because I cannot listen to music like everyone else, or talk on phone like a normal person since it was hard to reciprocate what the other person was saying. But I’m not complaining. I’m fortunate enough for having access to hearing aids, to having had a school life, and most of all a loving family. I’m still on the process of recovering. If you had asked the 15 year old me about my disability, I would shy away and try to hide my hearing aids by pulling my hair over my ears. But if you ask me now, I would proudly show it and tell I’m not ashamed of my hearing aids. Like my mother told me, wearing a hearing aid is just like wearing spectacles. Just like how you wear spectacles to help you see, I wear a hearing aid to help me hear. I am still learning to speak tamil, and learning to lip read people who speak fast. After I graduated from school, I brought a recorder and would practise speaking every day and would pronounce the combination of letters such as ‘ ch ‘ the audiology therapist told I could not do, till I started pronouncing it even in my sleep. I would listen to the record again and again and find out where I pronounced wrong, and work on it. I have learned to let go of my past and move forward. I have learned to accept my disability and live with it. I longer cringe when people come to know of my disability and start to treat me differently since I have become accustomed to it. After a recent visit to my audiologist, he marvelled at my speech and called me a miracle. Little did he know that it was not a miracle, it was my hard work that brought me here. I have very few friends, but they are the ones who are the most dearest to me. I am thankful to everyone who has been a part of this dreadful journey and helped me come up, every step of the way.
To the girl who would pour water on my hearing aids everyday thus damaging my hearing more ( hearing aids weren’t water resistent those days ) ,
To the boy who would kick me in the stomach every day and push me off the swing calling me deaf,
To my apartment neighbours who would mock at my disability every single day,
To the teachers who took the risk of believing in me,
To my parents who never stopped believing in me and allowed me to choose what I wanted to do and choosing not to teach me sign language and treat me like a normal child,
To my darling sister who taught me to converse with people and gave me strength to survive,
To the particular gang in my school who would mock at my dance behind my back and ridicule me,
To my ex classmate who would call me deaf and tell everyone who tried to talk to me that there is no point in talking to me since I was apparently “deaf” ,
To my furry baby brothers whose fur was wet with my tears and they would lick my tears off,
To my previous driver who never ridiculed my tamil, he instead taught me how to speak tamil,
To my soul brother ( You know who you are ) for protecting me with your life,
To my school life,
And most importantly to the doctor whose mistake almost caused me my life,
Thank you. Thank you for making me strong and bringing me up. Thank you for giving me the chance to show the world that differently abled people are no less, they can own the world too.
And a personal note to myself,
I’m proud of you. I am proud that you overcame every obstacle that came your way and you were independent. The scars of your school life is impossible to forget, but I am proud that you are learning to forget and forgive everyone and work on your imperfections.
With this, I finally conclude with a small suggestion for you guys:
When you meet a person who is differently abled, don’t treat them as different. It’s sad enough that a separate term has already been coined for them, but they are just the same as you. They have feelings like you, they have a heart like you, they can smell, hear and see. Just like you. They feel depression too. They feel fear too. They feel isolated too. Take me for an example. I cannot hear properly, so I rely on lip reading and on vibrations for my dance performances. So I function and make conversations in a slightly differently way. Hence the term, ” differently abled ”. It doesn’t mean I am not human like you. I have feelings like you too.
Please, please do not mock at someone even if it is just for fun. I have been called as a sensitive person by so many people but it’s because of my past. When you bully someone, you take a small piece of them away. You take away the light in their eyes and their happiness. Do your own business, and let them do theirs. And most of all, do not label people. I’m talking about ‘ attitude person ‘ and ‘ slut ‘ too. Unless you know their past and their struggles, you have no right to judge them.
And finally, to all the people who are facing some disability or the other, you aren’t alone. You are not the only who faces depression and feels isolated. You are not the only person who is treated as a different person by the world. I feel you. All I can say is be thankful for the family and friends you have got, and move on with your life like it’s no one else’s business. Do not expect anyhard and you will be rewarded. Nothing is impossible, remember that.
I dream of a day when disability would no longer be considered a curse, and the people who are differently abled would be given a chance to have a normal shot at life, just like the others.