What I Learnt From Meeting Visually Impaired Jasmine Shah

Visually impaired George was once sitting outside a church, looking at the sky murmuring something. Spotting a vacated seat, Jason, who was in his mid teens, sat beside George. Jason had a bad day and was irritated as the clouds were getting darker by the day. To kill time, he tried to hear what George was murmuring.
On realising that George was thanking god for hearing his plea for a rain, Jason got even more agitated and said, “Are you nuts? We are freaking waiting for a good sunny day and you are thanking God for the rain?” George said, “Well, I like how it looks, how it feels when it’s raining.”
On hearing this, Jason lost it and said, “C’mon don’t give the usual rhetoric of the scenic beauty etc. It’s all blah. Moreover, you cannot even see what is happening and how it looks.”
George smiled, and in a calm tone said, “You are right. I can only feel it and yet I appreciate it because that’s the best I have. I believe you can. But are you even bothered?”
When I met Jasmine Shah in Mumbai, I had a similar experience. Jasmine lost her vision and hearing ability at a very young age. She suffers from a unique syndrome called Usher syndrome.
The syndrome is characterized by hearing loss and a gradual visual impairment. It began with partial loss of vision, and then gradually she started losing her hearing at the age of 11. By the time, she was 16 she had completely lost her hearing.
In our country, visual and hearing impairment is nothing less than a taboo. Not that there is any lack of sympathy from the society. However, what anyone like Jasmine needs is a sense of trust and self-belief. She was lucky to have a father who invested a lot of effort in ensuring that she finished school. However, after completely losing her vision at the age of 18 years, Jasmine found it extremely difficult to communicate. Thereon, her attempt everyday was about trying to regain both her senses.
At the age of 32 years, she got implanted with a Cochlear Nucleus implant by Dr. Kirtane at Hinduja Hospital. The cochlear implant restored her sense of hearing. Jasmine knew this was her opportunity to push it hard. She grabbed the opportunity and connected to the world around her fully.
Today, she adroitly dons multiple hats, those of a diligent home-maker, a caring wife and a doting mother. She attends her daughter’s school meetings and takes her out with friends. She fully indulges in her hobbies such as watching stage shows and movies. Jasmine also confidently socializes at kitty parties and regales her friends with shayari in Hindi. In fact, when Cochlear started its Sounds of Cricket campaign in India with Brett Lee, Jasmine was one of the recipients who Lee visited.
But ask her about the one thing she cherishes the most. Her eyes light up, “It is the sound of my daughter calling me ‘mamma’ every day!” she says. For Jasmine, her sense of hearing is unequivocally more important than the sense of vision. The gift of hearing helped her to connect and communicate with her beloved daughter every moment of her day!
Jasmine put a lot of effort to win back what the destiny tried to steal away from her. What was more endearing was that she had a family that didn’t consider different. In fact, while it is said that calling visually impaired “differently-abled” is politically correct, I have never really understood if it would really help my self-esteem if I had been in such a situation. The last thing you may want to know in such a situation is that you are “different”.
The meaning of the word swings from appreciation to an epithet.