Monday, March 29, 2010
One day I was surprised to see a guy in a wheelchair in the train. I kept wondering how he got in. When he arrived at his destination, he called out to some of the guys inside the train, including me to quickly come and help lift up the wheelchair with him in it and put it down on the platform... quickly before the train move off. The train only stop for about 15 seconds at each station. not much time.
Another time, I saw a guy stooped down low to be able to step onto the train and it took him about 10 seconds to get on. As soon as he got on, he could not stand up. He had to called for a couple persons to help pick him up. As they tried, they couldn't get him to stand up. After about 2 minutes, they figured out how to pick him up to make him stand fully. One person has to pick him up and hold him, while another person gently has to push his back in for him to be able to stand. The time I saw him came on the train, it wasn't crowded but can you imagine if it was crowded?
I could not take pictures of everything, as the security guards won't let me. But the elevators are often too small for someone in a wheelchair to get in and out with ease and many buildings do not have flashing fire alarms for the deaf or braille for the blind. The bathrooms is another story. No handle bars or huge space for persons with physical disabilities to use it with ease.
That's all for now, folks!
I know they were probably going out there for some little TLC or kissing or whatnot, but the shore is muddy, dirty, and filled with trashes and sharp rocks, yet those women wearing sandals still braved it and went out there. Where else would they go? Hotel cost money. The wedding will come soon, and there will be no need for hotel rooms but not always because when they got married, sometimes the girl will have to move in with the guy’s families of 5, 6 or 8 in a small house and there is no privacy. I saw the news recently that a British couple got arrested in Dubai for kissing out in public. The next time you are traveling and feeling a bit “Lovey Dovey” with your love one, be sure to stop and ask around if its ok before you go ahead and kiss your lover.
Anyway, about love; love is taken seriously here. Arranged marriages might be happening less and less these days and the divorce rate is steadily going up as I was told. “We don’t waste time; waiting 4 or 5 years to get marry, while living with each other like the Americans.” I got a feeling that most people felt the westerns sleep around and change partners that easy, which is still a taboo here. My friends said that it’s mostly college kids in India that sleep around these days.
It so weird, because while I am here the whole time, I have never heard anyone mentioned or talking about being conceived outside of wedlock or anyone having kids outside of wedlock. I asked my friend to tell me how much persons they know that were born outside of wedlock, the person said “Nope, nothing like that here. We married first then have kids.” I am not sure the person understood and I know for sure they have to at least be someone around who was born outside of wedlock so I asked the person again, emphasizing my question. The person still didn’t get it so I said “Ok, there are some people here who had sex and is not married, right?”
“Ahmm… Maybe. Maybe not yes, but before no. Oh! They probably pay for the sex."
I have to keep reminding myself that such topic here is a taboo, and that although it might happen, it might not be easy for others to acknowledge that it happened. We went on and on until the person told me that, they always use birth control here so getting pregnant is out of the question because after all, it will anger and shame the whole family and no body want that. But then, it’s mostly the upper class who can afford birth controls. As stubborn as I can be, I pushed on saying what if the birth controls failed? “Abortion” the person said. I asked around and later found out that the few, who dare to have premarital sex, and accidentally got pregnant, had abortion. Upper class persons tend to can afford the abortion but persons from the lower class, kept the baby. You get the feeling that premarital sex is wrong here although not an offence in the court of law. There was an article in the newspaper about someone taking another person to court because they live with their partner and might be having sex.
Still it makes you wonder where this person get the thought from that it is an offence for someone to live together and not be married.
When I meet a new person, they often ask me two questions “Do you own a house or pay rent?” and “Are you married?” When I said no, they often got puzzled, knowing I am 29 and not yet married. It is the norm here for persons to get married in their earl 20s, especially for the girls. Someone I know, who is 27 years old told me she has being looking around since 20 and no luck finding a guy yet. Then last week she came in the office, beaming, smiling from ears to ears. A friend announced “She met a guy two days ago!! Yah!!” But here is the interesting thing, when they met they already talked about marriage and when it should be. “I am not really too happy about the whole thing. You see, I am 27 and he wants to marry me in two years time. It’s not good for a woman to get marry near her 30s! I want to get marry within a year or 6 – 8 months.” I asked her what if he is the right guy for her. “He could be, but I am not letting him go yet because it’s so hard to find a guy nowadays.” I questioned why people have to get marry so soon and they just say “Well, that’s norm in India. Women in their 30s are not desirable but that’s also changing. More women are getting married in their 30s.”
My friend Martin, a few weeks ago came to me “Rian, guess what?” I could tell it was something interesting he had to tell me… “What is it now?” He pulled me one side “You see that deaf girl over there? We are in a relationship now?” I was surprised. I have known the girl since I came here. I asked “What about the girl that your parents set up for you and the other deaf girl you were planning to marry soon?” “Forget them, they are taking too long and it’s too complicated. I can’t wait any longer.” I thought, well this is a happy ending for Martin now, but just last week, when I asked him how is the new girl, he told me “Its hard… I am a Christian and she is Hindu. She told me her parents wouldn’t accept a Christian guy like that… So I am not sure what we will do.” You could obviously see the frustration on his face. In the end, I have realized that finding love can be both easy and hard, depends on which class you are from and what you are looking for. I also learned that in most relationships, men have the upper hand. They can tell the women what they want, how they wanted it and when. For instance, I met two girls who said their husbands don’t like curly hair and they had to go to a hairdresser to get it straightened permanently. Another girl, said her boyfriend don’t want her working as he will support her. She said she is ok with it. The men decide. The wives can rebel if they don’t like it, but most of the times; they accept and support their husbands fully. I might be wrong, but this is what I got from those people I talked to.
Monday, March 22, 2010
(Kudos to Rohan Mehta for the picture)
Last weekend was GREAT! I had the chance to attend one of the IPL (Indian Premier League) Cricket games. It is really big here and the vibe is fever pitch. It is like the English Premier League football game, with different cricket players from all over the world coming to Play in India. 3 players from West Indies, including one from Jamaica (Chris Gayle) is participating in the Game.
(Kudos to Rohan Mehta)
As I sat amidst the loud cheers and music, I couldn’t help but noticed the skimpily clad, foreign cheerleaders. Dancing, grinding to the music, all in a sexually provoking manner. I kept looking around and asking my friends, where are the Indian cheerleaders but then I remembered, It is a taboo for them to do that. It is not that I am not used to seeing cheerleaders acting like that but I am in India! You hardly see those kinds of things here. The Indian society does not allow their women to carry on like that in public.
(Taken from: http://playersphotogallery.blogspot.com/2009/04/ipl-cheerleaders-photo-gallery.html)
So again, I did some research and lo and behold, I found out that, not everyone here is happy to have these skimpily clad women here, provoking the men, some of whom are married. I laughed at this comment:
“IPL is going on and so its controversies like Harbhajan slapping Sree Santh and now see the case of cheerleaders. BJP supporters organized a demonstration outside Eden Garden to protest against the semi-nude cheergirls performing at the IPL cricket matches and attracting the attention of crowd. Even some of the politicians are protesting against these cheerleaders as they are considering them as too vulgar for Indian culture. BJP leader said these dance are “distraction and nonsense” and there is no need of these US-style cheerleaders in Indian cricket. So a hot debate has started over these cheerleaders. BJP is saying “Why do we have to use scantily-clad women brought from Europe and America? We can always have our own Indian dances by local artistes”. Really this view point is strong and I am in favor of that. We should not waste money for these pantie and bra clad western cheerleaders.” – Abhi says, April 30, 2008 (http://abhisays.com/cricket/controversies-over-ipl-cheerleaders.html)
I did some more digging around and came upon this:
“Last year, foreign women were brought to India to work as cheerleaders in the IPL tournament. Indian women are generally not seen as promiscuous unlike foreign women. So they were not approached to wear tiny clothes and dance every time a batsman hit a ’sixer’. And then the fairness cream ads have ensured that men salivate over white skin and women aimlessly apply loads of cosmetics on their skin. So, Indian women were sidelined in favour of the foreigners. The cheerleading act was criticised but men drove in large numbers to watch the dancing girls or stayed glued to the television sets waiting for the camera to show them semi-naked bodies. On one hand the white girls were being criticized and on the other hand men were whistling with joy. The cheerleaders from foreign countries are much more honourable than the Indian women in context of the sport.
They are lawyers, nurses, sportswomen and even students who have to earn money to make it through college. They wear the tiniest dresses to excite the men and bring in more crowds. No Indian women can imitate them or take on their role without some scandal and societal problems.” – Kartikey Sehgal, February 18, 2009 (http://theyoungindia.com/2009/02/18/cricket-and-the-indian-woman-part-two/)
I would suggest you read the rest of the article at the website above. It had some interesting points about women and sport in India. I would love to hear from some Indian women, how they felt about this or if they ever wanted to be a cheerleader but could not. You wonder if the Indian society as a whole will view the foreign women positively or negatively because of this and you also wonder how much of an influence this will have on the Indian women in the near future or if it will have any impact on how men treat their women in the near future.
That's all folks!
P.S. : http://ipl.india.cricketworld4u.com/cheerleaders.php
Sunday, March 21, 2010
To help him a bit, I said "That country have many black people." Suddenly, he seemed enlightened as if he has finally made a connection... Then he turned to me and said "You" then gestured and made some gang signs, rocking side by side, acting as if he is rapping, grabbing his crotch, and pointing gun fingers. I laughed and said "No, That's in America and only some black persons do that." I ignored it as I knew Jamaica was new to him and that he probably does not understand the whole thing of rap music and black people. Who knows, they probably thought that it’s just an action and we are not possible gangsters.
But over the course of my whole 3 months here so far, I have noticed other deaf persons mentioned, or asked the same thing… The gang signs, excessive jewelries, pants grabbing on for dear life by the buttock, abundant tattoos, plenty girls and cars. A few even asked me with a smile if that’s the lifestyle I wants or like. Most persons though, would only mention it if you are talking about dancing. While the “Sikh Dance” or the dance where they point their finger up in the air and rock both shoulders is famous in India, they believe that dancing and flashing gangs’ signs are common for the black community. I guessed the media has done a good job as portraying us as the ultimate, exaggerating gangsters. I am somehow glad that there is some serious censorship regarding what can be shown on TV here in India. If it was allowed to show the women that were dancing half naked in the rap videos, only Heaven knows what they will think of our black women. Several of them thought we are natural fighters and not someone to mess with.
One night when I was on the train, I saw this guy walked towards me holding up some gang signs, behaving like gangsters while his friends behind him were laughing and rolling their heads back. When the guy got real close to me, he pretended as if he is concerned that the train is packed (It was not packed that time.) I noticed when he got back to his friends, they were all signing. What he didn't know was that I am deaf too. I just looked on, and kept a straight face; letting them have their ways. I thought of the popular saying, which goes "Lord, forgive them for they know not what they do" then I just let it pass. A few hearing persons asked where my tattoos are and why we black people like wearing big shirts and big heavy pants.
Thinking about it, I realized how much power I have as a black tourist in their country, to shape or influence their minds. The media had the power to influence the way they think but I have the power to show them that as a black person, “gangsterism” is not our default lifestyle. When that deaf guy walked towards me on the train showing those signs, I could have done something silly or harmful, then show him some gang’s signs to say “we are gangsters, don’t mess with us fool!” and that is something which would confirm his believe that we are nothing more than gangsters but being understanding about it and behaving in a way that shows maturity, would definitely make them think differently of us, I believe.
You sometimes wonder what the locals are saying to each other when you see them laughing, and pointing at you to their friends. To be a traveler to international countries, it calls for one to exercise some sense of serenity – “accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, Courage to change the things which should be changed, and the Wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.” This famous saying is a must for travelers to know, if they ever find themselves in this situation. India is a large country so my power would only have a tiny impact on the whole population but it is known that big impacts usually started somewhere very small.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
(Photo taken from: http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?261617)
Recently there were uproars in India about the Women’s reservation Bill. I do not know much about it but I did some research. The bill was proposed several years ago but was not passed. The bill was reintroduced recently, to mark the International Women’s Day which was on March 8th.
Now, here is the interesting part… Some MPs who opposed the bills created some commotions, grabbing at papers, tearing it up in the house of parliament and it had to be postponed. See for yourself here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-uyYOOB_Es
From my research, here is what I found: The bill would give women a higher percent of the seats in parliament but some groups are opposing it as they felt that giving women that too many seats will only cause problems and help the elitist’s women group gain political power. Others also opposed it because they felt it doesn’t appropriately reflected fairness for all women – that makes me wonder about women’s with disabilities. Are thy involved in the bill, does the bill help gives women with disabilities a fair access to a seat in parliament?
I have noticed here that the men are mostly the decision makers. Here the deaf guys on the staffs believe that they work harder than the women, and because the women are in the office most of the time. Some of them refused to do the job of the women in the office and most of them believed that cooking, cleaning and washing is reserved for women only. I can only hope that such believe is not possessed by the majority of the men in this country.
About the bill and why the fuss: http://www.rediff.com/news/2005/aug/24spec2.htm
About what happened last week: http://globalvoicesonline.org/2010/03/09/india-womens-bill-stirs-up-a-hornets-nest-on-international-womens-day/
I boarded the “handicapped” section of the train one morning, hot and sweaty and was hoping for the rain to come by with its coolness to this city; to rinse out the everlasting pollution out of the air. I noticed an old guy, looking as cool as cucumber, legs crossed, wearing sandals with trouser and a buttoned-down shirt. He had a well trimmed, white beard and moustache. I sat a few inches away from him and he smiled. A few minutes later, a deaf guy I know hopped on the train and the guy beside me waved to him. The deaf guy waved back then wave to me. The old guy looked at me smiling then asked the deaf guy “He is deaf too?” The deaf guy told him yes and he greeted me by shaking my hand and let me know he was deaf too.
There was silence for about a minute and a half and I decided to break it and asked the old guy in Indian sign language where he was born. He was quiet, looking puzzled. He looked to the deaf guy, who then told me that the old guy does not know sign language. The deaf guy looked to the old guy then gesticulated “He asked you…. You born, you… Where around?” The old guy smiled, looked around for a bit, made himself comfortable then turned to face me and he launched into a story telling mood. I was surprised how much I could understand, even when he does not know sign language as he claimed. It was like he used his hands and body languages to paint his life story in thin air. This is the story of a deaf guy who knows no sign language. I admitted I might missed a thing or two but what I am about to write is what I got from him.
He uncrossed his legs then began gesticulating boldly, “The deaf sign language, I do not know. I born in the Village (he painted the hills, trees and river with his hands). My mother did not want me (he gesticulated a woman throwing away a child and running the child away.) I lived on the street, drink and get drunk and fight (Gesticulating punching someone out.) Man! I fight, I fight, I bleed, bleed; bleed (gesticulated punching himself and showing blood trailing down his lips.) Now I stopped.” He said smiling and explaining that if he didn’t stop he would have knocked me out and he laughed. “I don’t drink anymore. I left school because I could never hear what teacher was saying.” He went on to explain that he worked odd jobs on the streets for many years (he gesticulated digging, hammering, painting and carrying heavy stuffs.) “I live alone never married – Oooiieee!” I looked to my left to see who the old guy was yelling out to. He was trying to get the attention of someone who just boarded the train. The old guy gesticulated, using his strong, distorted “deaf” voice, “Your hands or legs, crippled? (He gesticulated breaking his hands and legs)” The hearing guy now looked guilty and was looking away. “BOASSS!” Said the old guy, running him off the train, and the hearing guy who obviously wasn’t “Handicapped” hopped off the train, looking shamed. The old guy then relaxed a little and continued “I live alone, no kids or families.” It is amazing how he was very aware of his surroundings. Noticing who boarded the train and whether they have a disability or not, all this time while gesticulating to me.
The old guy then told me about something he so much admired but first he was trying to gesticulate something I didn’t understand and the other deaf guy, who was watching all along explained that he meant brother. Happy now that I understood, the old guy continued “My brother, I wanted to work with him but they won’t let me.” Now I will tell you what the old guy told me and see if you could figure out what job his brother does, cool?
The old guy acted like he was riding a bike, then gesticulated that some people was holding up stuffs and cameras. “The guy on the bike was waiting and my brother put fake hair on him and brushed him, trimmed him and dressed him up a little. A man said “go!” and the guy on the bike rode fast and wheeled it, then fell down on purpose. The man said “stop!” then the guy with the camera stopped filming and my brother ran over and put dirty on his jacket, a little dirt in his hair, and put a little red paint on his chin. The man said “go!” and the guy with the camera started filming. The guy on the ground with the bike was – (The old guy started acting like he was hurt, grunting) was breathing hard. Then he got up and took out a gun and ran. The cameramen ran after him, filming. The man said “Stop!” Then my brother ran after them and put more red paint on his chin, put a little water on his forehead and mess up his hair a little. He then put more dirt on his jacket.” Have you figured out what his brother does yet? That’s right, he is a make-up artist!
I smiled all the way, I felt like I was watching a real movie. After he finished I was trying to figure how to ask him his name. So I took out my ID and show him then pointed at my name and say “That’s me… What about you?” He took out a piece of paper which was professional written by someone in English. It reads “My name is Trishand, and I am a carpenter with 25 years of experience. I am here today to fix anything you would like me to fix. I will try my best to fix it as good as possible. Thank you.” That is as much as I can remember, so his name was Trishand. I held up 2 and then 9 fingers to tell him I was 29 years old then Trishand held up 5 and then 6 fingers… 56 years old. We said our goodbyes and went our way.
I wonder how he did it so well. Some of his signs looked like actual sign language, but Trishand doesn’t believe its signing as he told me he can’t sign. My theory is that he grew up gesticulating with different people, deaf and hearings and has mastered that skill so well along the way. I was told that hundreds of others like him existed around India. My friend Rinku told me “Some small kids in school lost both their parents and was immediately taken out of school and was sent far away to some villages to spend time with distance families so some of them knew a few signs to be able to gesture that well.” He said that other reasons might be because their parents had no money or wasn’t satisfied that they were learning and took them out of school from an early age. Another very common reason Rinku said is “The parents are sometimes very broke and need money so they took their deaf child out of school early and make them work to bring home money – some worked as early as 10 or below.” I remember meeting two of the staffs who said their parents did not let them pass 4th grade but luckily enough they had deaf friends around, who they communicated with daily.
I could only imagine that there are others who aren’t as successful as Trishand when it comes to communicating by gesturing but there are probably others who found the job that Trishand so passionately described to me that he never got. I would love to meet such deaf person who had that job but only gesture to communicate with everyone.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
The males and females sat separately... You will often see that in India.
Activity #1 (Blind Trust)
Activity #2 (Crossing the Ocean)
It is accustomed for the Indians to drink tea, 3 to 4 times throughout the day. Here I am having some "evening tea" with the ladies.
(Picture taken from: http://www.adospados.com/page/2/)
(Here is a video of what it is like taking the train: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b9MwqD378zk&feature=player_embedded)
“There is no space in Mumbai, Rian!”
Seriously, you better leave your selfishness at the airport when you come to Mumbai. It is so crowded in the train stations that many people either lost their shoes or had their bags or clothes ripped. Once I saw a guy walking, holding the inside of his pants between his legs. I looked closer and realized it was ripped wide open right down to the ankle of his pant. He didn’t seem angry or maybe he was but was trying to hide it behind that slight smile on his face.
It’s so crowded that I get annoyed, especially when they don’t say “excuse me” or “sorry” amid all the running and pushing, bouncing you out of the way. But it looked awkward to most when I stopped and say excuse me, or sorry in the middle of one of the busiest train stations in the whole world. Who has time to stop and be polite anyway? I am probably too used to people having common courtesy in the train stations. It annoys me that even when I am looking at them, they still have the courage to use their hands and pushed me out of the way without saying excuse. I even looked awkward, turning around all the time when I feel someone bumped, slapped, brushed or rubbed against my buttock. I often shot them a look as if to ask “Who did that?!” Most of the time when I turned around, the people doesn’t e even look like they care. The few, who noticed, looked me in the eyes as if to say “Yeah, I touched you, so what? What you going to do about it, huh?” At times I felt like some of them noticed my awkwardness and knowing that I am a foreigner, touched me on purpose then looked away when I turned around.
I was also probably too used to living a live where your space is respected and no one invaded it or dare touch you that much. I worried about pickpockets and getting my clothes dirty since I saw some people wearing clothes that looked jet black with dirt. One day I was standing about 3 inches away from a guy in front of me and my back was turned to the door of the train. I was heading home from work and was tired and feeling stressed that day – I wasn’t in the mood to meddle with anyone. The train stopped at one of the stations and people were rushing in. All of a sudden, I felt this guy behind me pushing viciously, I mean pushing hard as if you are trying to push down a wall. I was so furious; I snapped and use my elbows to push him back, hitting him all over. He was like 5’3” so my elbow was probably hitting him in the head. The guy clenched his fits, holding them up as if ready for a boxing match. “$%*%!!!! $*%&^%!” It seemed he was probably swearing in Hindi or Marathi – I don’t know. I said “what’s wrong with you man?! Stop pushing me!!!” He pointed in front of me, gesturing angrily that I need to move up. I said “Move up where?!! There is no SPACE!!” He just push me a side and stepped right in front of me, taking up all that little 3 inches of space that was left in front of me.
He looks like he is in his 50s. His whole back was pressed against my groin; we were like two sardines packed tightly in a can. I was surely upset right there and I used my knee to push him forward, trying to create a little space for myself and he retaliated and elbowed me in the stomach. I shoved him and he turned around with his right fist, clenched pointing towards my face, looking ready to knock me over. We were locked into about 40 seconds of intense stare, with his head shaking side by side in a complex method. The people around us were quiet; they stopped pushing, anticipating what would happen next. Someone then, burst into laughter, shattering the tension in the air. The guy then, ignored me and turned away, mumbling something in his native language.
Persons looking by were amused and were making fun of the situation. One guy talking to another guy raised his left hand high above his head to make the shape of a giant and his right hand below his waist to make the shape of someone short. I guess he was saying “Look at that little man taking on that huge tall guy, hahahahaha.” When I got off the train, it didn’t stop there. A guy ran by almost knocking me down. I thought out loud to myself “You all want to mess with me?! Let me show you no-mannered people something!!!” Then I started walking fast, with my elbows out, muscling them up, thrusting them into the back of whoever dared bump into me. The funny thing was, no one seemed to care or was bothered.
To tell you the truth, I felt miserable when I got home that evening. I was more relaxed but felt some kind of guilt. “Did I come to India, pushing around people, angry at them, wanting them to do things my way?” Who the hell am I to come here, getting angry at them for pushing to get to work on time so that they can feed their families?? I felt like, as a foreigner in their country, I was the one who disrespected them. They grew up in crowded places like this and they were used to it – became a pro at navigating it and I am not a pro but had the nerve to be upset because I am not.
When I told my supervisor what happened, he burst into laughter “There is no space in Mumbai, Rian! What did you expect?!!” A friend who was nearby said, “You should see the women’s section of the train. There are catfights almost every day!” He went on to say “The women, they grab each other hair, use their fingernails to scratch at each other, and some of them even bite!” So, imagine, a lady, dressed to the 9 for work in one of her best clothing (several women I was told, wore clothes that are custom made as there are lot of tailors in India and its cheap.), with nice hairdo, looking good and all, only to have another person ruined it? Of course they would be mad.
I was told that many houses have sometimes 5 to 7 or 10 family members all cranked together and 3 or 4 persons sleep together on one bed. Many people flocked Mumbai looking for jobs and a better life, eating up every little space that might be available there. Some restored to living in the slums, but even the slums are crowded too. It’s so crowded that sometimes people got killed in stampedes:
Monday, March 1, 2010
This is about "oralism."
Three weeks ago a friend told me she will take me out to hang out with some friends who she is sure, I will love. I told her if I happened to don’t love them she will have to buy me “Gogola” – it’s an Indian Ice tickle; tasty and delicious. She said sure.
The day came and I finally met up with her friends. I wasn’t prepared for what would happen that day. As I remember clearly, she told me her friends are deaf so I assumed I will be communicating with them all day. Yes, they were all deaf but do they sign? Not at all! When I met them, I was happily signing away; finger-spelling my name in ISL, grinning at my ever increasing fluency in ISL but only to be cut shortly… “Sorry, we don’t sign. I can read lips only.” I looked to the others to see if they can sign, because after all, at least one or two should know sign language but nope the others don’t know sign language either. They tried their best in their “deaf’s voices” to mouth every words carefully for me to understand. I understood nothing.
My friend tugged at me and said “Sorry they don’t sign at all.” I looked her in the eyes trying to read between the lines. She noticed I was puzzled and she went on to say “That guy don’t like signing. He thinks signing is for the lower, less educated deaf persons. That girl, she is married to him but her parents did not allow her to sign while she was growing up. That other one, I taught her some signs back then, but she just refused to use it. Some of them had the opportunity to learn sign language but wasn’t motivated to do it.”
I thought to myself “No problem, I am good at gesturing and making persons understand me eve if they don’t know sign language” But even when I tried, I failed. I realized they refused to recognize my signing and rather to recognize me mouthing what I wanted to say. It then, occurred to me that there is a small deaf community of people who do not sign. You could see the pride in them, when they were explaining that they work in offices, have many many hearing friends, traveled to different countries, and know English fluently and they did that all without signing. I wasn’t sure, but my friend told me they believed that if they were signing like the other deaf persons in
I don’t usually like to talk to people about my achievements because I want to avoid coming off as bragging but in this case I felt I had to make a point to them that as a deaf person, who signs very well, I can also achieve what they have or even more. I stopped mouthing and took out my mobile and typed “I am fully deaf. I have a MA degree. I travel to several countries. I have had many good jobs in the past. I know English, Spanish, Italian, a little Japanese, American Sign language, Jamaican sign language, and Indian Sign language” I added the part about sign language to let them know that I recognized sign language AS A LANGUAGE. When I showed them what I wrote, they were quiet for a minute. You could see that they were thinking out loud. One of the guys mouthed “Oh it’s because you are in
I felt that they wanted me to use the oral method, their way but not my way which is signing because whenever I sign, they would just disregard it and tell me to talk. I took the opportunity to show them some ISL, hoping that they will meet me half way and I wouldn’t have to talk to them all the way. “This is the sign for onion.” The ladies again, were very receptive. The guys just do not want to try other methods than talking. They just kept mouthing every word thinking I will understand everything. So I decided one of those times, to sign only and not mouth anything. Whenever he tries to use the oral method, I just say “Sorry don’t understand and kept signing.” I noticed he then got frustrated and started gesturing in a way as if signing. I realized they have it in them to sign but just refused to.
I told my other deaf friends about that experiences and they told me there are many others like that. “There are often rich, and think they are better than us because we use sign language.” I later leaned that, many of those persons while growing up was told or taught not to use sign languages. Their parents forced them to use the oral methods. I was even shocked to learn that there were still a few deaf schools in Mumbai that prohibited the students from using sign language. They all must speak or use the oral method.
I visited a deaf school in Mumbai one day because my friend there was having a small skit. She wanted me to see her acting skills and give feedback. She and about 10 others started a deaf acting club in Mumbai. They did a skit where two students were in a classroom signing and the teacher came by, punished them and said no signing. They froze right there, and a guy from the acting club came forward and asking the students who were watching, “If you were in that situation… What would you do?” Many of them recommended fighting, or quitting or trying to tell the teacher that “this is my language!” but the rest of the students watching, did not feel like their recommendation would solve it. I was sitting around the back and the guy pointed me out, “Rian, do you want to come and recommend something?” I didn’t want to, but all the students were looking and pleading for me to go. So I went forward and explained that just like there is Hindi, Marathi, Spanish and English… There is also sign language. In some countries, they recognized sign language as one of the national languages. A teacher has to use the students’ native language before they can teach them other languages. Sign Language, which is the native language of the deaf, should be used before they can teach the deaf English or any other language.
I didn’t want to sound like I am recommending using the western’s philosophy and I doubted my recommendation solved anything. The principal then came to me and say “Don’t get me wrong, I supported using sign language but they should know other languages at the same time.” I wasn’t clear what she meant so I asked her to elaborate. She pointed to a student and said “That guy is deaf. His parents do not allow him to sign but he is very successful and he knows 4 languages!” Mind you, she did not count sign language as one of those 4 languages. I later learned that the guy was hard of hearing. I also learned that it is common for the teachers here to give high praises to the hard of hearing students and decided from early that they will be the more successful ones because they can speak besides signing.
My friend and I never talked about that “Gogola” after the meet up, go figure.