(thought i posted this weeks ago)
My life has changed quite a bit since don’t interpret any more but sign language will always be part of who I am.
Years ago, I tracked down an interpreter here in Pune and we have become great friends. She is a pioneer in the field of interpreting. It’s awe inspiring what she has had to do to bring professionalism to her work, to advocate for for Deaf people in positions of leadership. Facing the hardship, the ignorance, the oppression I don’t think I would have been able to keep going. I admire her resilience and passion.
The Deaf community in India is rapidly becoming empowered particularly by influences from the west but without the social systems or legal rights many european countries have. So, interns come in and talk about what the world should look like and the Deaf community gets riled up angry with this new awareness of oppression and the rights they deserve. But their world is different and when they open the door the outside is not the same, yet. And there are times that the interpreters receive the rage and indignation for the years the deaf folks have suffered.
Atiya did so well in her position at college in Delhi she was promoted to educator when the program closed. It has since closed but on the spot she was hired for the program that has found a home in another state in India. Being away from her family is something we westerners can’t understand. It’s a big stress. She yearns to get her literacy program for deaf adults that she runs with her brother who is deaf. For that, they need capital. They need a modest investment to get their NGO up and running. Anyone out there?
I admire her work and I really think that I woudln’t have survived in an social environment that doesn’t see Deaf people as fully participating citizens. Hearing people here are called “normal.” and while I get that english is used diferently here, that one really rubs me. My friend, Atiya has to deal with such ignorance and keep educating both the hearing and deaf communities of the what it means to interpret and how challenging it can be.
For example, in the US any job over 2 hours requires 2 interpreters paid hourly. Atiya will do an all day job by her self for the equivalent of $30. And that is very high paid. Getting paid for her work has been a battle , teaming will be another. Terps, deafies, be grateful for what you have and be grateful for those that forged the road. And let’s offer support to our international communities that is empowering and won’t leave battle scars when you leave and return to your homes.
Finally engaged to her handsome beau, Atiya is a smiling woman. It’s official and stable. Before the relationship was all under the cover as he was a student in her program. He has finished his degree which is a huge accomplishment for him- anyone but being Deaf in India requires a certain resiliancy to seek out higher education and opportunity. And I believe their union gives a lot to each of them. I ask her to make sure that sometimes she can take off her interpreting hat and just enjoy a movie.
Though her family is very liberal in comparison to others, by my standards I’m quite grateful to have the freedom. I don’t have the tight family tribe that gives you a sense of belonging and togetherness which is a big thing. But I can meet a guy while on vacation with my parents, spend 4 days with him and then pack it up and move in with him in a foreign country. Let’s just say I don’t think she can even understand how that works. Aitya’s brother is looking for a wife so that someone will stay home with his mother. Like I said, I’m being grateful for what I have.
Her brother and I spent some time going back and forth signs i Indian Sign language, american sign langauge and mexican sign language. And today int eh practice hall, due to an email from a friend, I met Ania from poland who teaches yoga to deaf kids and was a teacher of the deaf for 26 years in Poland.
It’s really nice to connect with other people on the other side of the globe whether it be around yoga or sign language or whatever. I really love that about my time here.