CALL OF COMPASSION| RUMA ROKA, 52
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.”