‘I never thought I’ll become a teacher’

Recently, I came in contact with a wonderful teacher who is both deaf and dumb and has been teaching in a school for the handicapped in Shillong for the last 16 years. Despite the disability, her strong determination and sincerity took her to the height where she is today. Let us hear the story of grit in her own words.

I am Sona Choudhury; I was born in 1981 in H Gordon Roberts Hospital with a host of physical deformities and handicaps. I was born deaf with vision in only one eye and one side of my face is paralysed since birth with a stiff neck; and only a single kidney functions in my body. My father was a businessman and mother a housewife.
At the age of four, I was admitted to Deaf and Dumb School, Kolkata. I stayed there with my mother for six years in a rented flat. My mother also endeavoured to learn speech therapy so that she could communicate with me. This eventually proved to be decisive. I had a strong urge to read, write and speak which gave my mother an added inspiration for mastering the speech therapy on me. The result was instantly effective. I stood first in the class. I also made a special mark as a painter and won a number of prizes.
In 1989, for some unavoidable circumstances, we came back to Shillong where I joined Laban Bengalee Girls’ HS School where it was very difficult for me to adjust with my disabilities. But I was determined to give my level best to be successful.
In 1997, I passed my SSLC examination in second division and in 2001, I got through the HSSLC examination in second division. My dreams of climbing the ladder of success was growing more, so in 1998 I even went to pursue the six-month Computer courses from Ali Yavar Jung National Institute of Hearing Handicapped in Mumbai. After returning to Shillong, I joined the three-month DTP course at Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda Cultural Centre, Quinton Road.
I never thought in my life that I will become a teacher until in 2002 when I was being called by (l) Brother MDO Donohue to join School and Centre for the Hearing Handicapped Children (SCHHC) as an assistant teacher. It was such a wonderful moment for me to be with children and flow together in this beautiful valley with the Hearing Impaired Children.
Then, in the following year, I also equipped myself by completing the sign language three-month course from Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. The training and exposure which I got after this boost increased my love for the teaching profession and I was aspiring to complete my Degree course from IGNOU in 2003 and I could achieve this feat in 2007 with a first class.
This does not mean that I had only a good sailing in my life. Of course, I had to face many ups and downs but I decided not to stop climbing. So in 2011, I decided to go for BEd Special Education, NEHU, and worked harder to achieve that goal. Here too by God’s grace and continous support from my parents and my fellow teachers I got through it in 2015 in first class.
According to me, being deaf is not a disability but it is the greatest gift to me from the Almighty.
Deafness is nothing, but just inability to hear. People say I have no language but I have met a lot of other deaf people whom I feel comfortable with by speaking in our own language, which is ‘sign language’. I have learned my own language which my parents and friends can understand as sign language.
Sign language is the best of languages and connects every being in a special way. Finally I would like to end with the words of the great saint-educationist Swami Vivekananda — “People laugh at me because I am different; I laugh at them because they are all the same.”
Teachers’ Day was celebrated a few days ago and I feel dedicated physically challanged teachers should come to the notice of the Education Department for worthy recognition.

(Compiled by Uma Purkayastha, an award-winning educationist)