Celebration isn’t always the sound of uncorking wine bottles or bursting firecrackers. Sometimes, the excitement and joy is best felt in silence as seen in the quiet conversations of Riya Mariam’s family. Away from the world of sound, they communicate through signs. Their hands move in quick gestures, eyes widen and lips gently break into a smile after learning that Riya had topped her school in the Class 10 state board examination. The 17-year-old student of Little Flower Convent Higher Secondary School for the Deaf, Chennai, never let her deafness come in the way of her dreams.
“I was a little tensed before the exams. But the papers weren’t too difficult as I paid attention in class,” conveys Ria, who scored 350 out of 400 in the English medium category. Living in the hostel, away from her home in Bengaluru, she often helped her friends through the difficult chapters.
A lively and fun-loving girl, Riya is a favourite among her teachers for being an exceptional dancer and sportsperson. Her inability to listen to the sound of music didn’t hamper her passion for dance as she learnt how to move gracefully by observing the counts of her teacher.
She aspires to become an engineer after pursuing a diploma course in electronics. “I want to come up in life and support my family,” explains Riya, whose parents and brother battle the same disability. Her mother is an electronic operator in a government firm and her father works in a private company. While they contemplated a corrective surgery for their children, the doctors advised them against it and urged them to save the money for their children’s education.
Saving the pennies for a good education was crucial even for S Bhakyalakshmi, who came second in Chennai district, scoring 343 out of 400 in the Tamil medium category. Catching two buses from Chromepet to her school, she never missed a day of class. She worked tirelessly before the exams, studying for nearly eight hours a day.
“She usually stayed up preparing until 11:30pm and took breaks only for a meal,” says her mother, Bhuvaneshwari, who works as a housekeeper and is the sole breadwinner after her husband abandoned the family a few years ago.
A sincere student, Bhakyalakshmi plans on entering the commerce stream. Having been an ace pupil from the beginning, she never let her disability become an obstacle on her road to success.
(An edited version of the article was published in the Times of India, Chennai on May 26, 2016)