In 2006, three women were travelling in a local bus to their office in Bangalore (now Bengaluru). The conductor stared curiously at them while they chatted away in Sign Language (SL). One of the women turned to the conductor and spoke to him. The startled man said, “Oh, I thought all of you were deaf!”
The woman who spoke was Pavithra Y.S., who was learning the rudiments of SL at the time. Her teacher was her employee Yeshodha N. who was born with deafness. Pavithra, who used to take the same bus to work as Yeshodha and her hearing impaired (HI) friend, was running her fledgling company Vindhya E-Infomedia with a handful of disabled employees. She had put up a banner outside her tiny office that said jobs were open “for the physically handicapped” since she had no idea about the many other forms of disability that exist. It was Yeshodha who opened her eyes to the universe of the Deaf and HI. She is the reason why SL became “an official language in Vindhya”, says Pavithra, whose awareness about disability has grown exponentially alongside her proficiency in SL and the size of her company. Today Vindhya has a workforce of over 1,800 of which over 60 per cent are Persons with Disabilities (PwD).
And 49-year-old Yeshodha has been with her all the way.
Since none of us at EGS can Sign and were therefore unable to even video-call her, Yeshodha emailed us her replies to our questions. Born in Mysore to N. Narayana and R. Puttamma, she has been living in Bengaluru since the age of four after Narayana got a job at the local HMT watch factory. She attended the renowned Sheila Kothavala Institute for the Deaf and has a two-year basic computer diploma. After brief stints in a series of jobs (“tailoring, packing, printing, watch repair, dental”) she and her friend who had both been downsized, were walking past the Vindhya office when they saw the banner.
Pavithra recalls how they initially communicated by writing on slips of paper. “Do you have a job for me?” she asked Pavithra. “We only have data entry jobs,” she replied and added: “You are much more qualified than me.” Yeshodha wrote these words that have stayed with Pavithra all these years: “You teach me the job and I will teach you the language.”
Yeshodha has been doing data entry from the onset. “In the beginning, when we started working on site, going to other offices to do their data entry, she was part of it,” says Pavithra. “She got on well with everyone around.” Describing her vibrant personality, Pavithra adds: “Her energy lights up the whole room.” Yeshodha acts as a liaison for fresh candidates who are HI, coordinates with and helps train them, and explains to them all about the company and its needs.
She is married to a HI man and lives with her in-laws. She adores children and loves to play with her brother’s son, four-year-old Aarya Kishore. How does she spend her spare time? “Watching TV, cooking, playing games,” she replies. She also likes taking part in skits! Next year she will hit the big five-oh and we have been assured that Vindhya is planning a bang-up 50th birthday bash for their veteran employee!