Some children grow up slightly different from the average lot. They acquire a sensitivity and undrstanding much beyond their years that make them so very endearing.
One such brilliant spark is fifteen year old Arwa Imtiyaz of Nowgam village in Anantnag district of Jammu and Kashmir, about 70 Km from Srinagar. She is translator for 300 sportspeople who are hearing-impaired and unable to speak.
Is she a player herself, a coach, a mentor or some such that generally accompanies teams that travel beyond their place of familiarity to distant ones. None of these!
What she actually does is, become the voice of these sportspeople whom she accompanies in their travel to far-off places to participate in tournaments. Back home she also visits the houses of the specially-abled and engages them in outdoor games. Wow!
Why does she do this?
Her mother and maternal uncle, both hearing impaired and unable to speak, were both very good badminton players. In fact her uncle even runs an association for differently-abled sportspersons. “My mother Rehana can’t speak or hear. Her brother Mohammad Saleem, a good badminton player, is also deaf and mute. And ever since I can remember, I have seen them struggle, facing discrimination outside and within our family. I could not stand that, and decided to do whatever I could to help anyone in that situation… I learned how to communicate in sign language from my uncle who had undergone training in Delhi,” says Arwa.
Arwa became a translator for the hearing-impaired at the age of 11 after she joined her maternal uncle who runs an association for differently-abled sportspersons. The association is registered with the Jammu and Kashmir sports council and the good Samaritan Arwa translates everything for its members.
What is in it for her?
Well, actually nothing! She has been doing this for the past five years but does not take anything for it. Instead she has to sometimes miss school when she accompanies the players to places such as Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai whenever they have to participate in their sport. There are about 300 persons registered with the association which itself comes under the J & K Sports Association for the Deaf.
The parents of some of the children whom she accompanies, make her responsible for them since otherwise they would not allow them to go outside of Srinagar. "Money is not all to me but I want to help people like my mother, maternal uncle and aunt, who cannot speak. They have always taught me to fight back in life despite being disabled," says Arwa.
“There are very few people in the world who really care about deaf and mute children such as mine,” says Nazir Ahmad Bhat from Baramulla, whose two sons Mohammad Ashraf and Showkat Ahmad are sportspersons. “Whenever my children go for any sports activity, Arwa keeps me informed, even when they are outside the state. At times, we call her so many times every day for information about my sons, yet she never loses her patience,’’ says Bhat.
She is the contact for the families and the communicator for the organizers and the sportspersons she accompanies at the venue.
What about her own future?
Arwa's father Imtiyaz Ahmed Bhat is an auto rickshaw driver. Extremely proud of his daughter he says "I am proud of my girl she does a tremendous job. I am trying my best to support her. Whatever I have it is for my daughter and the differently-abled children," he says. Arwa like other children her age has her aspirations and becoming a doctor is her life’s ambition. Despite their support for her emotionally and other small ways, her family is in no position to support her financially even for her school education in a good school. But is the girl daunted by this thought? Not at all!
"I don't think I can fulfill my dream of becoming a doctor as my father's income is very less," says Arwa. "I had even changed my school at a time when we were not able to deposit fees, but I believe that prayers of the differently-abled will help me to make my future shine."
So dedicated is she in whatever she does for the differently-abled that she gets appreciation from different quarters of society. Of course the greatest support is her family. Her younger brother is in middle school. Her elder brother had to drop out of school when he was in class X because he met with an accident. The family has been going through very bad times. Yet they never come in the way of what she is doing silently appreciative of the good in her that she spreads around so much.
"She is an inspiration to others and we are trying to support her and also the association," the Jammu and Kashmir sports council says. According to Waheed ur Rehmad Parra, secretary, J&K Sports Council, Arwa is an inspiration. “I am surprised by the dedication of this girl. And I try my best to help out and speed up paperwork of any team with which this girl is involved. She is an inspiration for all of us, and she should never feel that she has been let down by the system,” he says.
A maturity beyond her years
What is special about her? She could be playing like other children and living a routine life. But for one who has seen the frustration and agony of people who are not able to get their thoughts across in everyday life and at such close quarters, she has a very deep understanding and sensitivity and that too at so tender an age.
When the J&K team won four gold, three silver and two bronze medals in the National Games for the Deaf in Ranchi in the recent past, her happiness knew no bounds. “Whenever they win any game or event, I hug them. At that moment, many of these players struggle to control their emotions and finally break down… I will keep fighting for them, their rights. Here, I am the only person who can highlight their misery.’’
She is blessed with a lovely attitude that can never say die and wonderful understanding parents. Though they are appreciative of all that she does they also silently wish that someone showed similar concern for their daughter.
The Lord never lets a good deed go unrewarded. And for what she is doing we all believe at Unnati Silks there will come a time soon when she will reap the fruit of all the good she has done so far and get her fair share of good fortune. For like so many who believe, we also do, that She’s Different!