22-year-old Siddharth, fondly known as Appu, was first diagnosed with profound hearing loss 6 months after he was born, and a BERA test confirmed the diagnosis.
A Mother’s Love
Doctors informed Siddharth’s anxious parents that he would not be able to hear or speak at all. Though they were devastated to hear this, there wasn’t a single stone left unturned—his parents searched high and low—consulting with different doctors. They even took him to Ayurvedic ashrams, churches, mosques and gurudwaras to find a cure.
A little solace came when a doctor confidently reassured his parents that Siddharth would get back some hearing, removing his absolute dependency on sign language to communicate. His mother, over the next 2–3 years kept shuttling between their home in Mumbai to the hospital in Kerala as they commenced treatment with Dr S Namboothiri at Sreedhareeyam, Koothattukulam.
His mother’s dedication to caring for her son went on far beyond his adolescence as he started schooling in Bangalore and was enrolled in the Dr Chandrasekhar Institute for the hearing impaired where Siddharth’s listening and speaking skills improved substantially with audiometry training.
In Pursuit of his Passion
From a young age, he’s always had an eye for photography which has now evolved into a love for filmmaking.
Siddharth enrolled in APTECH and began a course on 3D MAX Modelling, in line with his passion. He got the opportunity to begin his professional career with a Virtual Reality software company in Chennai, but his joining date has been postponed due to COVID-19.
Along with a few of his other hearing-impaired friends, he has created several short films, two of which bagged the Runners-Up position in an International Film Festival held at Goa in February 2020.
Siddharth is an active participant in a few NGOs and a member of the DEAF association in Bangalore. During the COVID-19 lockdown, he created a Group called DYB (Deaf Youth of Bangalore) and started collecting donations from family and friends. With the contributions he got, and with the help of his team, he converted his room as a store for making arrangements to stock rice, atta, dal and oil and then started distributing it to poor families and deaf people across Bangalore city. They are now feeding almost 150 – 200 people daily with food packets (going from labour camps to various places to find needy people).
What some may perceive as his limitation, he has harnessed to become his strength. He has made connections all over the globe using the power of social media – interacting with those who are similar to him and empowering them.
When people think of those with any sort of limitations travelling, they tend to connote it with difficulties. However, this hasn’t been the case with Siddharth. He is an avid traveller who has also gone on solo trips. When he does travel with his family, Siddharth is extremely caring, even lending a hand to his mother and grandmother whenever they go out walking. His mother emotionally recounts, “We all say that a deaf boy travelled with his parents, but I can proudly say that I travel with my Siddharth. That makes a lot of difference.”
His father recalls an incident showing Siddharth’s passion for travel and the power of the connections he makes online. The family had gone on a trip to Norway and Sweden, and his father struggled to get his International Roaming activated. On the other hand, Siddharth got one of his friends to deliver a local sim at the airport- its week-long unlimited data was a reflection of the unlimited potential of his contacts via social media!
He has never been one to shy away from a challenge and one such trial came when he had tried to get a driving licence. He overcame the legal hurdles and now uses his Karnataka driving licence to ride off into the sunsets atop his Enfield 500 CC, a 20th birthday gift!
Today, Siddharth is capable of picking up sounds and can recognise voices and reciprocate in speech owing to the use of hearing aids. He can communicate reasonably well with his friends, family and acquaintances.
While Siddharth prefers to spend time by himself and a close-knit group of friends, one person who seems to warm him up with unbridled joy is his toddler niece Shreenika, who fondly calls him Appumama.
While the hearing aid may have helped him forge a conversation with people, Siddharth’s proficiency in American and Indian Sign Language allows him to communicate with his friends who are hearing impaired too.
Siddharth aspires to make a name for himself in the Film Industry. He is on the right track to cementing his career in Filmmaking having joined a software technology development company as a 3D Modelling Artist in Virtual Augmentation and Virtual Reality.
This article has been written by Neha Nambiar.