Mural by deaf persons screams for equality

New Delhi: A colourful mural made by a group of deaf persons in the city has literally put this writing on the wall — deafness is normal and sign language is not a taboo.

Braving the scorching sun, about 30 youths, including two deaf American trainers, laboured for hours to turn a portion of a dull exterior wall of a prominent flyover in south Delhi into a vibrant canvas, embedded with a loud and clear social message.

“We do not want to be seen as inferior to anyone, we do not want be labelled as ‘Oh that poor guy’. This exercise is a quest for achieving inclusivity and equality in a society that is still not ready to put us on an even keel. This artwork, therefore, aptly called ‘Understanding Deaf Culture’,” says Alim Chandani, who runs a training centre for the deaf in Hauz Khas.

Chandani, 35, himself deaf, says, he was based in the US and came back to India three months ago to start the centre. He detests the use of the word “hearing-impaired”.

“Please just call us deaf, it is fine with us. Do not put us into some exclusive clubs, it is not flattering. This art has been done by deaf persons, and even the US trainers from the centre, who are helping them, are also deaf. We want to send out a message that we are capable of doing thing just as anyone else can. We hope to send out a positive message to people,” he said, with the help of an interpreter.

The street art is themed on sign language and many of the volunteers also wore special T-shirt wearing slogans like ‘Sign language is beautiful’, ‘I Can Sign’ and ‘#CanDo’.

Many intrigued commuters slowed their vehicles near the flyover wall, as the volunteers were seen communicating with each other using hand gestures.

Amanda, one of the American trainers, who hails from Chicago, says, “Sign language is still a taboo, whether in India or the US.” “Why are we seen as less than anyone else? The only way the society thinks we can be brought to some level of normalcy, if I may say so, is by use of cochlear implant. But we can use sign language too and we communicate just fine. But society thinks sign language is some kind of an aberration,” she says.

The flyover, between Hotel Oberoi and Nizamuddin Basti, is a busy one, and the mural, with its brilliant portrayal of use of sign language, stands out in a riot of colours.

Shivoy Sharma, the interpreter, says, “My parents are deaf, so sign language is my mother tongue, no one taught me or trained me in it. As a child, I first made the sign of milk to my mother, rather than uttering the word. The universe of the deaf is fascinating, only if we were a bit more sensitive.”