Surabhi Manadhar has not just made her parents but all of us proud. It was for the first time that Nepal took part in Miss and Mr. Deaf International in 2017 and Voilà! Surabhi was crowned as Miss Deaf Asia 2017 at a gala event held in Paris.

After months of worrying about your pregnancy and delivery, the big day finally arrives. You are blessed with a beautiful baby who is a healthy bundle of joy, born with ten fingers and ten toes, crying and cooing in your arms. The feeling is indescribable, everything feels perfect. Now fast forward a few months down the road when your baby does not react to your call. You take him/ her for a checkup and then your pediatrician informs you that your infant cannot hear. What now? Discovering that a child is deaf can stir up a wide range of emotions in parents. Most commonly they feel shock, sorrow and helplessness. Was the feeling same for Surabhi’s parents?

Surabhi’s mother: “Surabhi is our second child. Everything was okay. She was even saying a few words like, ‘Mama’, ‘Papa’ and ‘Baba,’ but things changed over when she was nine months old. She suffered from a massive fever and was under antibiotics. Soon after her recovery we started noticing that she was not responding to our voice. She would be busy playing with her stuff. She would not be bothered by any noise, neither would she speak any other words except ‘Mama’, ‘Papa’ and ‘Baba.’ That was when we took her to a doctor. We did many tests. Her full body checkup was done and then the doctor suggested us to do her audiogram (hearing test). After almost one and half years we came to know that she cannot hear. That moment was very bitter. I was stricken with grief. We had no idea what to do and what not to do. We were restless. There were hardly any place where we did not take her for a checkup. We even took her to India and it was there that the doctors told us that Surabhi lost her hearing due to the over use of antibiotics during her infancy.”

Having a child who is hard of hearing demand more of everything from parents: more time, more patience, and more work. It will be different from a hearing child. Different is not bad, it is just different. Parents, siblings and relatives have to get on to the level of this child and put themselves in his/her shoes and not always expect quick results. Relating to this I asked Surabhi’s mother, how easy or difficult it was for them.

Surabhi’s mother: “We never took her as a different born. She was almost the same as my other children. She was a happy-go-lucky kind of baby. During her childhood she would always play with her elder sister, but at times it was hard to understand her feelings. She would try hard to explain it but we would fail to understand what she was trying to say and then she would burst into tears. It was really difficult for me as a mother to see her like that. I used to cry inside and ask myself, why is my daughter like this. Those moments were intolerable.

Also there is one another incident that was real difficult for me. For almost a year we admitted her to a mainstream school. There she used to write everything but her studies got limited to copies as she could not hear the teachings which hindered her learning. Later we came to know about this special school called Susta Shrawan (School for Deaf), and we decided to admit her there. The day when we admitted her to Susta Shrawan it was the most painful experience for me, for I realized that my daughter would never hear, after which I could not hold back my tears.

Whenever we had guests at our place she would refuse to meet them for she thought it would be difficult to have a conversation as not everyone would know sign language. But we used to ask her to meet and greet them. She used to come, greet them and slowly move towards her room. She also used to refuse to go to parties or even to her maternal uncles’ house. We did not want her to hide away from anyone. We tried our level best and asked her to socialize, but it was her choice, so we could not force her. Later after her younger sister was born, they jelled along really well, and it was then when she started to go everywhere where her sister went.”

Communication between a child and its parents begins from birth. When your child is very young, communication happens when you are cuddling, caring for or playing with them – this is the same for a hearing kid as well as who is hard of hearing. But things get little different for the child who is hard of hearing with passage of time. For they tend to have a hard time communicating with other people as well as family members. So it is very important for the family members to also learn sign language, hence enabling vital communication. What was that like in Surabhi’s family, let us find out.

Surabhi’s mother: “Her grandfather was the first person in our family to learn sign language. He has done a lot for Surabhi. Then I went to learn and then it was her father. As of now my younger daughter wants to learn sign language for Surabhi, and says she would like to be her interpreter.”

All about the pageant

It was for the very first time that Nepal took part in Miss and Mr. Deaf International.  All the arrangements were made by The Hidden Treasure in collaboration with Creative Hands of Deaf Women. We asked a few questions to Surabhi’s mother about her journey to the pageant.

How did this pageant happen?

Surabhi was very much interested in beauty pageants since her childhood as she used to follow it and used to have paper cuts of all Miss Nepal winners. One fine day she came to know about the pageant through social media sites. She then came to me and told me about it. I had never sent her anywhere alone so I was like how can I send you to Paris? And I just ignored it for a few days. But she was stuck with it and started poking us. So we went to inquire about it, and because she met all the criteria, she got in.  The preparation time was very tight. In a very short span of time all the training sessions and rehearsals were done and the rest is all history.

How did you feel when she won Miss Deaf Asia 2017?

We got a call at around midnight from one of the team members saying that the live telecast of the pageant was going on. I woke up Surabhi’s father and we started watching it, and later everyone in the house joined us. It was a surreal moment for us when we saw her win the Miss Deaf Asia 2017. We were on cloud nine. We were so happy that we could not say a word but definitely tears of joy rolled down our eyes. It was the happiest moment of our life because she made not just us but also the country proud.

How has life changed for her after the pageant?

In a day or two after she got back from Paris, the Hidden Treasure arranged a press meet. After that her life was not the same as before. She got busy with interviews and photo shoots. For almost a month her schedule was really very tight.

A message from a mother

As a parent we should never lose hope. One should never say that a person is incapable of anything. If children lack something in them, then there definitely is something that they are best at too. It is not like only a normal child can do everything. So we should let our kids lead their dream. I have seen many people who hide their kids with disability and feel ashamed to introduce them as their children, which is absolutely wrong. Children with disability should not be treated in any lesser way as they are equal to any other child.