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International Day of Sign Languages: life is beautiful, even in silence

  • Published at 12:51 am September 23rd, 2019

From birth, Ashraful Anam Anik and Suhana Tabassum have been living in a different world, as they both are hearing impaired, but that has not stopped them from having a full life

Fifteen years after High School, Anik found a former classmate, Suhana in a Facebook group for the deaf. This chance meeting led to relationship, luckily in the age of technology where it is far easier for people with hearing impairment to communicate. 

At one stage, Suhana began to received proposals from many boys, but she rejected them all.

“When we planned to tie the knot, our families did not like the idea. We were both heartbroken by our families’ decision. As I stuck to my decision, my family finally agreed to allow me to marry Anik” she said.

“We finally married in March this year, and are planning to have a baby after three years,” she said.

Suhana now dreams of having their own home where she will sew clothes commercially.

She also recounted her struggle as a child.

From birth, Ashraful Anam Anik and Suhana Tabassum have been living in a different world, as they both are hearing impaired, but that has not stopped them from having a full life. 

They both communicate through sign language. 

With his small income of Tk 6,000, Anik grapples to meet the expenses of his family. He stays at his father-in-law’s home at Rampura.

He gives Tk 2,000 to his mother, who lives in Mohammadpur, where he, too, used to stay before moving to Rampura, just a month after his marriage.

Life full of hardship

“My mother couldn’t understand me when I was a child. I got admitted at school and used to just watch other people playing and communicating with each other, but no one could understand me nor could I understand anyone,” Anik told the Dhaka Tribune with the help of sign language.

“One day, my father felt severe chest pains. Mother had a tailoring shop, which she closed before going to the hospital. I still couldn’t understand what happened. It’s been thirteen years now that my father passed away from a heart attack, that has left us in financial difficulty,” he recounted.

“I studied up to eighth grade as my mother worked at her tailoring shop. Afterwards, I learnt how to operate a computer at Society of the Deaf & Sign Language Users (SDSL).”

Anik, 29, went on saying that he was later employed at the institute for two years. He finally decided to change his profession, and duly took training on making pastry and fast food.

“I’ve been working at Angel Pastry and Fastfood Shop for the last six months. I plan to save some money and start my own eatery near my home. Then we can have a nice home of our own,” he said.

“My mother always loved me, but my father cared very little. At times, he did not even talk to me,” Suhana said.

Nevertheless, Suhana overcame the struggles as her mother was always there for her in case of any need.

“After I stopped receiving formal education in fourth grade, I still used to read newspapers and write under my mother’s supervision. I can even translate from Bangla to English,” she said.

Suhana said travelling with Anik is what she loves the most about their married life. 

“He takes photos of me wherever we go out,” she said.

Frustration galore for Anik as life treats him differently 

Anik expressed his frustration that people like him cannot receive much education while the struggle to earn a living is much tougher.

“If we’re given skills, there will be more and better employment opportunities for us,” he said, adding,

“We want to earn as much as everyone else does, but in more cases than not, employers deprive us of fair pay,” he alleged 

“Also, we are given more workload as compared to others. We want equality in this issue. We also want more options in employment, so we don’t have to be a burden on someone else,” he said.

Peace prevails as Anik comes back home and sees Suhana  

But at the end of the day, Anik feels tranquillity in his heart as soon as he returns home, regardless of his hectic job and other problems that he faces every day.

“Seeing her face just calms my heart. We feel very happy all the time”, he said.

The response from his wife, who is five years younger to him, is no different.

“After I complete my daily chores, I have nothing left to do except to wait for Anik to return. At times it feels very hard, but it has become a routine for us,” said Suhana, also using sign language.

At home, there is no one else other than Anik to talk to, she added.

Suhana said she had been dependent on her mother since childhood.

“Nobody allowed me to leave the house. I attended school, but did not pursue education after class IV,” she recounted, adding that she and Anik often would study in combined classes.

“However, after a long interval, we managed to contact each other through Facebook again. As the days went by, our chat thread started growing and we loved having conversations on Facebook,” Suhana elaborated.

Official estimate of hearing and speech impairment 

According to the official estimate of Society of the Deaf & Sign Language Users (SDSL), there are around three million people who have hearing and speech impairment. Of them, 10 percent are unemployed educated and skilled people.