Virtual Communication

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A young man with a well to do background has not let his inability to hear and speak dominate his life. He uses smart phone to record his long drive and broadcast it on social networking websites, reports Zafar Aafaq

Faisal Mohammad Mir

Muzzamil is in the final year of his graduation. His brother, Faisal Mohammad Mir, born 18 months after him has not gone past class 10. Reason: Faisal is deaf and dumb.

“He joined school late,” said Muzzamil. He neither hears nor speaks but he is not just another case. He communicates with the people through gestures. After he got a Smartphone, he interacts through the internet as well.

Muzzamil faces no problems to communicate with his brother. When Faisal draws two arrows in the air, it means he is unable to connect to the internet.

“He is addicted to the phone,” Muzzamiil said. “When he has no internet connectivity you will find him busy with Candy Crush game.”

Scrolling down the screen, Faisal opens a Facebook application on his phone.

Faisal lives in Gaziriyal, a 100 household village tucked in the hem of steep mountainous slopes in Kupwara’s Kralpora belt. Gaziriyal is traditionally associated with the practice of faith healers. Many male elders of families from Gazi cast conduct this practice and people from across the valley throng this village to get a healing touch.

While fiddling with Facebook he comes across pictures of his friends. He presses Like button and occasionally comments with words like, ‘fine, well, superb, awsm’.

At times, he pauses at some pictures and points towards his tongue and ears, telling that the people in these pictures are physically challenged like him. In one such photo on his Facebook profile, Faisal is seen in sportswear along with a group of teenage boys. Muzzamil says that this photograph is from a sports event held in Srinagar for deaf and dumb in autumn 2015. Faisal has travelled to many places in India to participate in different sports events. He has accumulated a stack of participation certificates in T-20 cricket championship of the deaf held in Kolkata, West Bengal in winters of 2017 when he represented a team from Jammu and Kashmir.

The family has a car and Faisal can drive it well.  “We don’t know how he manages to sense the traffic but he doesn’t face any apparent problem while driving, even on highways,” says his friend, Imran, who frequently accompanies Faisal on his ‘driving expeditions’.

He is also active on Instagram, a popular photo sharing application. Here he regularly updates photographs from his day to day activities and travels. Faisal has also shared a video on Facebook recorded live. The video shows him driving the car.

In winters, Faisal accompanies his uncle to Punjab where they travel about selling shawls and garments. However, this winter Faisal stayed put at home. “We don’t know why he did not go this time to Punjab. He follows his heart,” says Muzzamil.

His cousin Gazi Fahad, who is on winter vacation from Chandigarh where he is pursuing a degree in biotechnology, says that Faisal regularly connects with him on a video call and updates him about happenings back home. “I don’t face many issues to understand him,” said Gazi.

Faisal was born in 1998, a year after Muzzamil. His mother did not realize his handicap, initially. “Maybe it was due to Aadam Kahar (evil eye). Both Muzzamil and Faisal were good-looking at the time of birth and maybe that caught the evil eye,” says Shafiqa his mother.

She visited every faith healer and doctor she had heard of, “but, to no avail.”

His mother shares an anecdote from his childhood boasting Faisal’s mental ability. One day when Shafiqa had gone to the jungle to collect firewood Faisal had disbanded a power stabilizer and made a model of a house building from its body. Then he showed it to her. “I was initially infuriated but when Faisal reassembled the gadget to its original form my happiness knew no bounds,” says Shafiqa. Faisal has an inclination towards gadgets, she says, whenever someone in a family has any technical issue with their mobile phone and other gadgets, we consult him and get the issue resolved. “Doctors, teachers, saints, and engineers were all praise for his mental ability and technical acumen.”

The family had insisted Faisal continue his studies but he found a school ‘a repulsive place’. So, last year they enrolled him at a computer training centre in Kupwara where he learned typing.

The family wanted Faisal to take up tailoring course but he has not shown any inclination towards that. He wants to run a shop in nearby Kralpora town, instead. The family is yet reluctant to let him do that. “We are not yet sure whether Faisal will be able to conduct public dealings independently,” his mother said. “Because of his handicap he will face many problems,” says his mother. The family thinks that a government job is a right place for Faisal to eke out a living.

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