CALL OF COM­PAS­SION| RUMA ROKA, 52

India Today - - COVER STORY - By Re­wati Rau

In­spi­ra­tion can come from the most un­usual things. For Ruma Roka, life took a turn while watch­ing DD News for the hear­ing im­paired. “I won­dered about the people who watch it, about their lives,” says Roka, who now runs the Noida Deaf So­ci­ety (NDS), which trains close to 1000 hear­ing im­paired people ev­ery year to take up jobs in dif­fer­ent sec­tors across the coun­try. To­day, stu­dents from NDS are em­ployed at ho­tels, cof­fee shops and even MNCs in po­si­tions rang­ing from se­cu­rity guards to house­keep­ing. How­ever, the jour­ney from a home­maker to a hope for thou­sands wasn’t a cakewalk. “I went to the Na­tional In­sti­tute for the Hear­ing Hand­i­capped in La­j­pat Na­gar in 2004 to learn sign lan­guage. But the In­sti­tute told me I was too old for the course,” says Roka. She then ap­proached the In­sti­tute’s head­quar­ters in Mum­bai and con­vinced them to let her learn.

It was a pe­riod of learn­ing and un­learn­ing a set of val­ues.

“It was a pe­riod of learn­ing and un­learn­ing a set of val­ues and a lot of in­tro­spec­tion,” says Roka, who started with train­ing five hear­ing im­paired chil­dren at her hus­band’s two-bed­room flat in Noida. The in­fra­struc­ture was limited then— Rs 4 lakh from an LIC pol­icy, a black­board, a lap­top, 15 chairs and a few ta­bles. But slowly, stu­dents started com­ing from dif­fer­ent parts of the coun­try. “I re­alised that deaf people are far more pro­duc­tive than oth­ers as they are not dis­tracted by the noise around them,” says Roka, adding, “I al­ways dreamt of bring­ing a smile to some­one’s face.”

Pho­to­graph by

M ZHAZO

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