Manisha – Living a soundless existence with much liveliness!

The world has many intellectual delights to offer for those of us whose sensory abilities are functional. We can smell the scent of wet earth after the first rain, have the flavours of the world on the tip of our tongue, feel the smoothness of fine silk against our skin, see the colours of the world, listen to our favourite song on loop when the mood strikes. Can you then imagine, not having even one of these abilities that are so much a part of our everyday lives? At the Deaf and Dumb Industrial Institute in Shankar Nagar locality in Nagpur, you can find children and youngsters who haven’t had the pleasure of hearing a single sound in their lives and neither can a majority of them speak. However, that hasn’t robbed them of their zestfulness. One such spritely young lady we met at this beneficiary school of Akshaya Patra is 17-year old Manisha Gedam, studying in Std VIII.

Hailing from the city of Pandharkawada in Yavatmal district of Maharashtra, Manisha’s father is a postman and mother a vaavar (farmhand in Marathi). She has three siblings – a brother who is in his 2nd year of a graduate course and two sisters, who are both married. She is the only one in a family who is deaf. However, she isn’t completely mute and speaks a little. In Pandharkawada, Manisha was in a school for deaf children. She shifted to the Deaf and Dumb Industrial Institute in Nagpur in Std VIII because her previous school only had classes till Std VII. Our conversation with her was facilitated by her teachers, who acted as interpreters, using sign language.

When we asked Manisha what she wanted to be when she finished her education, she replied, “Whatever my father says.” Deaf and mute children, due to lack of conventional opportunities for them, aren’t very aspirational. But upon encouragement from us to think about it further, she said that she would like to study and work as well. What work? “I would like to be a seamstress. I like tailoring clothes,” she replies. Her teacher, Varsha Daftari, adds, “Many of our female students go on to work in beauty parlours. They also draw beautiful mehendi (henna tattoos). In fact, the girls demanded that we hold a mehendi competition in school for them, so we arrange one to satisfy their demands.” She adds that the girls are great dancers too and even though they don’t hear the songs, they count well and maintain the rhythm of the beats.

Akshaya Patra’s mid-day meals are quite popular with students in this school. Manisha is no exception. “Dal and rice is my favourite meal. I also love the shira (a sweet dish prepared with semolina) and masale bhaat served by the Foundation,” says Manisha, who stays at a girls’ hostel in the Sitabuldi area of Nagpur, before she joins her friend to have an animated conversation in sign language – a sight that made us relive our own school days and long for the happy, carefree times again.

We wish Manisha the very best in life and hope she gets a great education, tailors beautiful clothes and stays her spritely self!

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