Deaf but not Dumb! Idea Caravan – Franklin Templeton Investments partnered the TEDxGateway Mumbai in December 2012.

This happens to be my very first entry to the Indiblogger-Franklin Templeton Investments’ The Idea Caravan Initiative.

Herculean ideas are created every day to make a change and arrive at a new age. I swapped through the videos and the one I chose was that of Ruma Roka (A woman with a mission to train and build skills in deaf people so that they can get employed and live lives of dignity and hope) The Franklin Templeton Idea Caravan Site has so many videos of speakers narrating their engrossing stories of excogitation from the TEDxGateway Mumbai 2012. Franklin Templeton Investments partnered the TEDxGateway Mumbai in December 2012.

This video evokes so many thoughts, so many memories of how we might have behaved to a person who is deaf. Sometimes we might have been rude, sometimes we might have been extremely sympathetic (to their annoyance) because they have a right to be treated like normal people and not be segregated from the common crowd. Due to their deafness, they are mostly found doing meagre jobs in tea stalls, labour jobs in textile shops etc. 

But is it their fate to be confined to jobs such as the aforementioned? Are they not allowed to aspire to touch the sky and dream bigger?

Ruma Roka passionately speaks about how she came across the deaf being undermined in the society and written off as futile beings. A video of a little girl is inserted in her speech displaying the efforts of a teacher attempting at teaching her how to say her name and which grade she studies in. It’s truly heart-wrenching when the girl screeches out her name and nothing but unpleasant sounds erupt from her vocal chords. The parents then think that children like her have no hope or future and let go of them so easily without even trying to help them learn the sign language, which is the only way they can communicate. In this way, many children are left with no option of being educated just because of their physical impairment, and that is exactly what she elucidates in the video.

The result of their state is unequivocally unemployment. The deaf people are considered as no good doers and fruitless, as a result no measures are taken to elevate them to attain education and provide them with job opportunities.  

Then, Ruma took the initiative and started to teach six children how to read and write English. She communicated mostly in sign language and learnt it professionally in order to aid the children. She wanted to instil in them the very same values and education that she had received when she was a child. She believed it was every child’s right to attain education. She says the parents were having a hard time digesting that their child is capable of doing a lot more if given proper education and care.

Her endeavours knew no boundaries as she heaved on and educated many more deaf people and enlightened them. Out of them arose an aspiring young man named Karan Bahadur, who was married to another deaf girl at the age of twenty one. The family believed he was destined to be subjected to the village for eternity, but he rubbed it in their faces and broke all chords and took up a job in a textiles shop for a salary of Rs.2000/month. He wanted to support his wife all by himself and not seek anybody’s help. He did not want to stop there and that was when Ruma took him under her wing and trained him meticulously. She tried to communicate with a BPO company and coaxed them into taking in Karan, who was ripe as a luscious fruit by then, ready to take on any challenge to reach for the sky. He was the torch-bearer, she said. He was the one who lead them all into the company, after he proved that he could concentrate on his work without heeding unwarranted attention. He had surpassed all the technical tests (in sign language) and the other H.R processes and had made his way to the hot seat. Now he is one of the most valued and potential employees in the company, says a proud Ruma. This flagged a path and twenty-five others followed him in to the firm, contributing value to it as well, convincing the employees!

Ruma has elevated her initiative and now they have ascended from five students to fifteen hundred students in their institute. From a single Karan to around five hundred and eighty working in organisations like Axis Bank to Domino’s Pizza, making their mothers and fathers proud. 

And what is their advantage?

The ability to evade the world around them and focalize on the job that they are doing and damn it, they are pretty good at it as well. They even win ‘best employee of the month’ titles because of the amount of commitment they pour into the work that they do. 

We should hear them out, listen to what they are thinking, dreaming and aspiring. And not dismiss their wishes, like blowing out a candle. They have a right to be heard and we should give them that, respect them as well.

Ruma says, “A big change can happen with just a small thought, and a small change and perspective to be able to think a little differently and most importantly to accept diversity that is inherent in nature.”


One thought on “Deaf but not Dumb! Idea Caravan – Franklin Templeton Investments partnered the TEDxGateway Mumbai in December 2012.

  1. SriramRamaswamy says:

    I just had that experience where I watched a bunch of students have an animated conversation returning from school. The hands moved fast but the face and eyes were enough to tell a story. It reminded me that I have to be thankful that all my faculties are operational and that they have a right to be treated as equals. Its enough to keep ones ego in check.


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