All this while, we have complained so much about the pandemonium around us that we have forgotten to appreciate the power of listening granted to us by the Almighty. For Arpana Sharma, her life turned upside down when she lost her hearing power due to middle ear infection and Cholesteatoma which gotten worst after the Bhopal Gas Leak Tragedy and gradually she lost all her hearing power. And if this was not enough, an ignorant mistake by the surgeon who operated her left ear lead to the damage of her facial nerve, right behind the left ear, leading to half face palsy on the side. As a result her speech got badly affected. She has practiced a lot to improve her speech without hearing her own voice, and believe me it’s very difficult to maintain the pitch and accent of one’s speech in such a condition.
At a tender age of sixteen, when students of her age were busy enjoying their lives, Arpana began leading a life filled with morbidity and gloominess. Haunted by the questions regarding her future, it was through reading motivational stories published by the Reader’s Digest and immense support shown by her family, which made her aim for an independent and victorious life despite all her obstacles.
Finding a life in books and solace in meditation, this brave lady went on to complete her studies, from class 12th till MCA, by self-study and regular help from her friends and teachers. Meditation soon became the healing power for all her pains, giving her strength at times of difficulty. After completing her studies, Diploma in Computers with Merit and MCA, she landed up with a job at Laxmi Narayan College of Technology, Bhopal as a Computer Programmer. Afterwards, she got recruited in the National Judicial Academy of India, Bhopal on contractual basis. While she was working there, she also began preparing for the Banking Exams, clearing which she got selected in Vijya Bank and Dena Bank for the post of Officer Systems/IT. She finally joined Dena Bank, Zonal Office, Bhopal where she has recently completed ten years.
Arpana is one of those few persons who do not see their disability as an obstacle in living life on their own terms. Not only has she learnt driving four and two wheelers (bikes like Pulsur and Royal Enfield are her favorites), but also she enjoys reading, writing, painting, handicraft, sewing, embroidery, driving, traveling, gardening, yoga and meditation. She was the second runner up in Miss M.P. 2000, a state level contest. Apart from this, she has gathered several prizes at various inter-bank competitions as well as felicitations for her Hindi writing. She also has a collection of her Hindi poems published under the membership of M.P Hindi Lekhika Sangh by the name “Bhavyaa”. The second Book of her Hindi poems’ collection is soon going to be published while several other poems are included in four collective books. Her poems are regularly published in several magazines and newspapers.
However, her journey to where she is now has been filled with desolation and darkness, as accepting the fact that she was deaf was tough, as she says, “A Cold silent world without any sounds, music, laughter and long chats with friends on phone calls. Sometimes I find myself nowhere in between both the worlds, first the hearing one and second the DEAF one.” Right from feeling lonely in classrooms while staring at the blackboard among students who could hear to being questioned about her disability by her colleagues, she has faced it all. Even worse, she was denied promotion despite her merit and well known dedication towards her assignments and duties, only because her head did not find her as capable as other candidates. However, treating with kindness one and all, she did not act rudely towards those who failed to understand her struggle of all these years and laughed at her instead.
She has even seen the times when some people did not like her staying in the same society they lived in and her colleagues had either challenged or boycotted her completely. Not only this, there have been times when was allowed to perform her own verse only because the organizer did not find her suitable enough to recite her own poem. But, she never let anyone deter from her “self confidence” and from her path.
Arpana is the new age practical person and sees her biggest strength lies in her parents and family and also the fact that she is financially sound. What sometimes makes her sad is the void created by the absence of her hearing power. She misses the sound of music and the echo of the laughter of the people, but finds peace in the smiling faces of the kids around her. Not able to smile properly due to her left side being paralyzed, she has been attending physiotherapy to improve upon her facial expressions. She believes in staying positive during all the times, enjoying each moment in life, never giving up on hard work, self respect, courage and will power. For her, her father has been the most inspirational figure in her life.
Having lived through the age of technological development, she feels that the living as a deaf is now a bit easier due to the innovative creations such as Mobiles, Smartphone and applications like e-mails, whatsapp and Facebook. These technological advances have made communication more feasible in their isolated silent life.
Her ambition includes being a good painter and writer and being of a helping hand to all the persons with disabilities. Apart from this, she aims to help the needy and the poorand never misses a chance to help them. She always keeps biscuits and chocolates for the poor kids she meets on the roads.
She believes that as the society has a huge role to play in one’s life, they should be more compassionate and supportive towards people with disability as well as girls with disability as gender bias is prevalent in our society. Also, the children should be taught to be more respectful and helpful towards the people with disability around them.
Certain changes which she would like to suggest are creation of an identity card for the people with disability which would serve a similar purpose as that of an Aadhar card, making the ATM, Cinema, Parks more accessible for people with disability along with having subtitles for even Hindi shows to help the deaf people watch television channels.
She says, “Personally, I think that referring physically disabled as “Physically disabled” is more appropriate rather than giving them names like “Divyang” or “Viklang”. Disability is not a virtue but a physical state. It needs to be accepted that way. Disability is not there to glorify literally but to accept it as a state of life and people. “
Sharing her own experience where she did not get any information regarding the ten percent benefit awarded to a person with hearing disability by the state government as stated on the website of Ali Yavar Jung National Institute for hearing handicapped, Mumbai, despite filing an RTI, she feels that “Govt. of India’s PWD Act and the state govt. benefits are actually not reaching to the needy, most of the disabled are even not aware of their rights. I think there is clear lack of awareness and co-operation among different govt. departments, institutions, public sector institution about the disabled and the benefits need to be granted to them. The reservation in the posts for recruitment is also not in practice properly.” She herself being deprived of getting any such benefit of Govt. of India’s schemes provided through PWD Act 2005. She has solely taken up this issue to the top management level for proper implementation of the PWD Act in the Bank for protection of rights of the disabled employees and to save them from any discrimination, looking to her own disturbing experiences. Recently, the RPDW ACT is passed in the Rajya Sabha during December 2016 but it is too not regularized by all the state governments. She is planning to write to the Chief Minister of the Madhya Pradesh for proper implementation of the same.
She recalls that recently when she went for renewal of her “hearing disability certificate” to the state govt. hospital in Bhopal, her disability level was measured wrongly by “Audio gram”. She requested for proper report as she is 100% deaf and the report was made as 70% hearing loss which was less than 10% of her previous report. She was asked to reapply and then her hearing loss was reported as 40%. When she protested against such wrong report, she was told by the ENT specialist there that “you can get all govt. benefits by having 40% disability”. Unable to bear such an insult she demanded for the “BERA” test but it was not available in the hospital and she was forced to accept the certificate with the improper status of her disability. She is now planning to write to the Civil Surgeon as well as the Chief Minister of the MP State to start the BERA test facility also in that state govt. hospitals.
Spreading the message of never giving up on one’s dream and not to feel less than anyone in any way, she also adds education acts like a liberating force in one’s life. She ends by quoting
“What you think about yourself and how you treat yourself counts most.”
About people who didn’t treat her properly, she says-
“The less you respond to negativity, the more positive your life will become.”
Arpana Sharma has come a long way fighting against her disability. With support from her parents, and family, and with the zest to achieve independence in her life, she has managed to overcome all the obstacles that lied in her way. Indeed, her story touches our heart and fills it up with inspiration, respect and determination to never give up in our life. She take courage from the words of Mr. RATAN TATA – “None can destroy Iron but it’s rust can, likewise none can destroy a person but it’s own mindset can..!”