Volume 2 Issue 72| December 19, 2009 |


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Behind the Scene

From Jhenidah

Won't Back Down

Azibor Rahman

IT's not common to see a throng of customers writing down the names of what they want to purchase on a writing pad kept at the entry table of a store. But, this is exactly what happens at Nizam Uddin's store, and he, speech-impaired, quickly communicates the price of the commodities to the customers through sign language. This is how Nizam Uddin, Alamgir, Ratan and Shitol run their business everyday at Harinakundo Upazila town in Jhenidah.

There are 80 speech-impaired people in Harinakundo upazila, out of which, 30 are members of Ishara Bhasi Lok Kendro. Nizam Uddin is the manager of the association and receives Tk. 1500 as his monthly allowance. Alamgir Hossain and Nizam Uddin are running two big stationary shops at Harinakundo upazila town. They believe that anyone can become successful if he is meritorious, industrious and sincere. It does not matter how debilitating the handicap might seem, they can always be overcome, as long as one does not give up on themselves for it.

These speech-impaired people can neither speak nor hear like the rest of society. But they can run businesses and can exchange views and opinions through sign language. These people have realized that they need not back down, they can function in their community like others. They are no longer objects of contempt, pity or discrimination anymore, and neither are they burdens on their parents' shoulders. They are completely self-reliant.

Nizam Uddin, owner of Pavel spin shop, told Star Insight that he started his business with Tk 10,000 in 1991. At present, his business assets (spinning equipment) are worth Tk. 1 lakh. He sells spin worth around Tk 1000-1200 per day and makes a profit of Tk 250-300 everyday. Nizam is married, and has a son and a daughter. Nizam's younger brother Nazmul, who is also speech impaired, is a service-holder at Keya Cosmetics in Dhaka earning a salary of Tk. 8000 per month. People of the town regard Nizam as a well-mannered man. He behaves courteously with everyone and runs his business with dedication.

Alamgir Hossain, also speech-impaired, said that he started his stationary shop with Tk. 30 thousand in 1995. At present, his current assets (mostly stock of goods for reselling) are worth around Tk. 3 lakh. He makes a profit of Tk. 600-700 per day. He has two brothers and a sister who are also speech impaired. His elder brother Akmol is a service-holder in Dhaka and his sister is a housewife. They all studied in Faridpur Sign Language School up to Class 5 and in Dhaka Bijoy Nagar up to Class 8.

Shamsul Alam Sona, Principal of Harinakundo Lalon Shah Government College, said that businesses of speech-impaired people in Harinakundo upazila town are actually doing better than all other shop keepers. Perhaps they try harder knowing they have a harder battle to win. Many customers who frequent at these shops to buy their necessities have learnt sign language as well through practice! Most customers say that they keep going back to them because of the shopkeepers' congenial behaviour.

Ishara Bhashi Lok Kendro was established in 2005, funded by the Bangladesh National Foundation Organization with Disability (NFOWD). The association for the Integrated Socio Economic Development Underprivileged People (AISEDUP) assists NFOWD. Speech impaired people congregate at Ishara Bhashi Lok Kendro every Friday afternoon at Harinakundo upazila town to exchange their views with one another.

Ahsan Habib, an Interpreter and a student of Jhenidah city college (BSS final year), said that he grew up with speech-impaired people. He had wanted to learn their sign language from his childhood. Recently, he has received training on sign language from Rajshahi. On 20 June 2006, Isara Bhashi Natya Dal of Harinakundo upazila performed a drama in an International Drama Festival organized by the Dhaka Osmani Smriti Auditorium. The drama, written by interpreter Ahsan Habib, moved the audience tremendously and many of them were teary-eyed. This Ishara Bhashi drama group performs in different parts of Jhenidah district.

Ahsan gravely said that there are about 26 lakh speech-impaired people in Bangladesh but it is a matter of concern that there are not enough institutions in Bangladesh where sign language is taught. In 2009, the prime minister requested the electronic media to broadcast news through sign language for the Ishara Bhashi of Bangladesh, but there was little impact. Only Bangladesh TV provides news using sign language for five minutes at 5pm and Desh TV provides it for 30 minutes at 7.30pm.

“A sign language, instead of acoustically conveyed sound patterns, uses visually transmitted sign patterns (manual communication, body language and lip patterns) to convey meaningsimultaneously combining hand shapes, orientation and movement of the hands, arms or body, and facial expressions to fluidly express a speaker's thoughts.” From Wikipedia.com