Vijay Krishnamani was born with almost 100% hearing loss in both ears. Despite the profound hearing loss, he learnt how to hear, speak, read and write, thanks to hard work and support from his parents and teachers.
I have had the privilege of connecting with Vijay, who presently works in Singapore, with Tata Consultancy Services. He is also the Global Coordinator of Suniye, a non-profit organisation in India working with and for the hearing impaired (www.suniye.in). Suniye’s mission is to help hearing impaired children acquire language, learn to talk, go to regular schools and become part of mainstream society.
Read on for Vijay’s story, and to know more about what Suniye does and how you can support this great cause.
By Vijay Krishnamani
I was born with almost 100% hearing loss in both ears. My parents were extremely shocked when i was diagnosed at around 1.5 yrs of age, but to my great fortune, they chose to take up the challenge and do something about it rather than just sit down and leave me to fate.
My parents had to sacrifice a lot of their time in order to focus on my upbringing. They also had to spend less time on my elder brother who proved to be a rock.
For the first 10 years from the time I was diagnosed, my life went according to a disciplined schedule which focused on making me learn how to speak, read and write English. Because of the level of my hearing loss, it was also decided early on that I would focus on learning only one language i.e., English. My day started at 5:30 Amand concluded at 8 Pm. In between, I was always learning. If I was not in school, I was busy with my speech and language development classes wherein I was taught the intricacies of communication, listening and writing. Plus I also took up extra-curricular activities like learning how to paint and play the synthesizer (an electronic version of the piano).
My father and my late mother in their moments of recollection, used to talk with pride about a few instances which, when looked at in retrospect, reflect how I moved from one stage to the next.
– It took six months for me to say my first word “Amma”. Thereafter, every newly-learnt word was an excuse to learn one more. Every newly-learnt sentence was an excuse to learn one more.
– I was refused admission into various schools, with one school principal even going to the extent of suggesting that I go to a mental school. Thanks to certain people to whom I will forever be indebted, I was finally given admission into a school in New Delhi, on the condition that my continuity in the school would be subject to my performance in the first year itself i.e., in LKG. At the end of the year, thanks to my parents’ hard work coupled with great cooperation from the teachers and other important people, I came among the top 5 in a class of 40 students. After this, the principal never had doubts about me.
– My parents weren’t sure about whether I would complete the full quota of 12 years. So when I kept passing year after year, their hopes just grew. When I finished 5th class, they thought, “Maybe Vijay will pass the 10th too, let’s continue our efforts.”
– When I was in 5th class, my mother came to school to pick me up one day and found me standing out of the class looking very remorseful. When she found out the reason, she was more thrilled than unhappy – I had been punished for talking too much in class.
– When I was about 11, I gave my first stage performance playing two Tamil film songs on the synthesizer in front of about 2500 people. I also gave around 7 more performances over the subsequent years, playing Hindi film songs ranging from old to modern music. This, when I don’t know Tamil and Hindi. Since I couldn’t understand the tone, I just learnt everything else about the song and it came up very well.
– Passing my 10th and 12th were big events. I did very well on both occasions. I joined college for my graduation and post-graduation, purely on merit. My dissertation semester for MCA was spent as a trainee in Nucleus Software Exports Ltd., Noida. When I got the job, my parents were happy beyond belief.
– I spent 1 ½ years in Nucleus before moving on to Hyderabad to join Virtusa, an American MNC. Shifting states and moving away from the cocoon of home was a really big deal. My parents were worried about how I would keep in touch, since they were a bit technologically-challenged in terms of email, and I am unable to hear on the phone. Then SMS came along. So I spent 2 years being an independent individual.
– Thereafter, I joined Infosys BPO, Bangalore, where I had some of the best years of my corporate life. I was blessed with fantastic management who always treated me as an equal and who never compromised on their professional expectations from me. Needless to say, I strived to give my best and more. I was nominated by Infosys for the Government of India Best Employee with Disability which I subsequently won. I also co-authored a book ‘A Values Route to Business Success: The Why and How of Employing Persons with Disability’ which was released by CII – Confederation of Indian Industry.
– Now my parents, friends and colleagues (and everyone else in the telephone directory) tell me to shut up because I talk too much.
Along the way, I have definitely faced a lot of bumps. But every time I always just stood up, learnt from my failures and walked on. That is how we live life. In a sense, one never fails but always learns.
I am a former student of Suniye. Despite my profound hearing loss, I learnt how to hear, speak, read and write, hard work and support from my parents and teachers. Other hearing-impaired children can learn to hear, speak, read and write too. This is where Suniye comes in.
I truly believe that every child with disability can do so well in life, if given the right support and aid. Sadly, most children in India do not have access to such facilities and thus lose out on the opportunity to develop a foundation upon which they can become independent people.