Author: Saryu Parikh
The Real Journey as a Volunteer Tutor

The first time, when I met my new student Tian at the Literacy Council office, I had been a volunteer tutor for five years. By that time I had tutored several students, but meeting Tian was a totally new experience.

My first student was a 39-year-old; African American woman named Barbara. Because of a learning disability, she was a slow reader. She used to come to study with me straight from her housekeeping job and was regularly irregular about her arrival time. We tried to read a few books. Over three years her reading speed did not improve much, but with my help she purchased her first house, found a better job and was introduced to many books.

I had a few other students. In February 2002, I had just returned from my trip to India. On my answering machine, there was an interesting message from the Literacy council coordinator, Mrs.Peggy; “Saryu, I would like you to meet this delightful young lady. I hope you will find time to tutor her.”  I was told that this student is hearing impaired. I called her home and talked to her father to set our meeting time. I suggested for Tian to write one page about herself. I could hear the Asian accent and figured that Tian would need help with her English. At that point I had no idea what I was getting into and while tutoring her how much I was going to learn!

Tian’s application indicated that she was ninteen-year-old high school graduate. She had been fitted with the cochlear implant to help her with her hearing problem not too long before. Actually, I came to know about cochlear implants for the first time in my life and assumed that a deaf person can hear and talk like any normal hearing ability person. Was I wrong! I realized my ignorance within a few minutes after meeting her.

Tian came to see me at the L.C.Office with her father. He explained the situation,: “Since she graduated from high school, she can not go to classes to improve her English and to go to junior college she has to pass a special SAT English / Math exam.” After her father left, I turned to look at this beautiful smiling face. I slowly started to talk but she signaled that she did not understand. I wrote in her notebook to show me her written paragraphs. Tian opened her book to show me several very nicely written pages. She had written about her ambitions to become a Doctor or a Graphic Designer or a Nurse! The writing skill needed a lot of help. Her enthusiasm and eagerness were very touching. In sign language she told me that she liked me and may be she could teach me sign language! I said, “ No thanks, because you have to learn to speak and hear.”

She looked like a Japanese girl to me, but she said she was from Malaysia. I could not understand, so I pointed at the world map. Excitedly she found Malaysia on the map. She wanted to know where was Afghanistan and why the terrible war was going on over there. Why do people kill other people? She always had so many questions.

As soon our class was over, I went to talk to the Director of the Literacy Council. I gave some general background of Tian. We both felt that if we can find a Speech Therapist that would be a great help for her. With Tian’s luck we found Ms. Lynn in our volunteer pool. I was very encouraged by the prospect of having another tutor’s help.  The long journey started with a lot of patience and enthusiasm on both sides. Most of our communication had to be carried on in writing. It was never limited to one subject. The struggle with hearing and speech problems and with improving her English continued for about the next four months.

In summer, Tian had to go to Malaysia with her family. We talked about her fear of flying. She was not very willing to go, but she had no choice. When she returned, she had a broken pinky finger. Some days she would come and write, “ I am upset today. The doctor has not done a good job, and my finger will remain crooked.” She was over anxious about her little finger’s shape. I was thinking, “This sweet girl has to face so many big problems in her life, and she is worried about this little finger as if her life depended on it.”

As time went on, she used to ask about boys, relationships and marriage. One day we were reading about Helen Keller. I was trying to emphasize her accomplishments in spite of her disabilities. One sentence mentioned that Alexander Graham Bell had recommended Helen Keller’s teacher. Tian got stuck there.

She started writing, “How come Helen Keller was not married?”

“Why she did not marry Alexander Bell?”

“What about her good genes?”

Her curiosity was hilarious.
At times, just like a typical teenager, she used to rebel against her parents about several things including religion. Her mother had mentioned that to me. One day, as soon she walked into the classroom, she went to the black board and furiously started writing. She wrote,” Jesus, the destroyer of the evil.”

I was surprised to see that because she was not raised in that faith. She sat down, and our lesson went on as usual. At the end of the lesson she said, “I will leave whatever I have written on the blackboard. So whoever reads it will learn to have faith in Jesus.” I went and wrote, “Krishna is a great God. Do you know about that faith?” She said, “No.” I explained that to have devotion and faith, one has to have knowledge and understanding. She agreed with her lovely smile and got busy erasing the chalkboard.

Tian was allowed to join the community college with the condition that she had to pass the English/Math SAT for special students. We worked very hard. We often used to get help and encouragements from Ms. Kathleen of the Literacy Council. Tian was totally dedicated but overwhelmed with all other subjects she had to study. So many times after a long session I would prepare to leave, she would come up with questions like, “Why you have to leave?” I would write,”I have to go home and cook for my husband.” Then she would get up and give me a hug wishing me a good evening.

I was impressed when she showed me her drawings. After seeing her talent I always encouraged her to take more courses related to Graphic Design. But before that she had to pass several other subjects. She had to write a five-page essay. I had written essays a long time ago so we both had to learn “how to write an essay!” At the same time she prepared for the SAT test. She and her family were disappointed with the result because she had passed the Math part but failed the English part. Her counselor at the community college was tough but still let her continue with the second semester. She was going through some serious family crisis, but Tian was very focused to her studies, thanks to her parents.

She used to attend the regular student classes with an assigned interpreter. She finished two years and received an AA degree from the community college with lots of hard work wrapped with tears of trouble and joy.

Tian had many friends and shared her stories of many birthdays and Christmases with me. She had some special friends.   One day she sent me an email, “Please will you tutor my friend Teddy also?”

Teddy was also hearing impaired and was to get a cochlear implant soon. He had recently enrolled at the community college.

Before I met Teddy, I ran into Kathleen in the hallway of the LC Office. Kathleen said, “ I met them. You should see how Tian’s face lights up in her friend’s presence.”

He seemed like a confident young man. We three started different ways communicating, but the funny thing was whenever Tian did not understand me, she would turn to Teddy for explanation. I was amused by her style because she had been with me for almost three years and Teddy had just started. They would get into their sign language game and forget the rest of the world. I had to tell them, “ You both studying at the same time with me will not work.”

Anyway Tian took classes at three different campuses. I continued tutoring Teddy at the office and Tian at one of the campuses.

The first important thing that happened to Tian was, going to the college. The other big milestone was she got the driver’s license. She sent me the email, “ Dear Mrs. Saryu, I have good news that I have passed my road test. I am so happy about that.  As you said, I will have to be alert at every moment while I am driving. I am so glad that you would pray for me to be safe.”

One day the phone rang and the operator said, “You have a relay call from Tian.”

I had never heard of that before. The operator explained to me that a relay call is a special service provided for deaf, hearing impaired or speech impaired people. They are provided with a device; the customer types the message, and operator reads it to the listener and in return operator types what was told to her for the customer.

In her third and fourth years of collage, Tian got too busy to meet me regularly. So she used to send her work for correction via e-mail. The first time she was planning to me an essay, this is what she wrote, “ Hello Mrs. Saryu. I will let you correct my essay. I have worked hard. You send it back as soon as you can.”

I replied, “ Dear Tian, this is not a correct way to request a favor; try again.” Whenever, I pointed out the proper way to do things, I had noticed Tian followed with the right attitude.

That whole semester she sent me her work many times via e-mail. I adopted a method to correct it with capitol letters and with brackets and sent it back. That method has worked for both the students.  As time went by, I could see the improvement in her writing skill. From the first day, after checking her written paragraphs, I had told her,  “Write short and correct sentences.”

And “Do not repeat your thoughts.”

After every trip to Malaysia, her English skill would suffer. She wrote to me after one of those trips,

“Mrs. Saryu,

I just got back here already. I will be wanting to study English with you if I can. Right now my schedules are tighting and conflict.”….

I corrected that long letter and sent it back. Our correspondence continued and soon after her college classes resumed I received this letter, I am sharing a small part of it,

“ Dear Mrs. Saryu,

Good evening to you.

I have been so busy doing my schoolwork. Sometimes, I feel so overwhelmed about too much homework. At least, I am so grateful that my hearing friends help me with it. I’ve missed you so much.”

It was a well thought out very nicely written letter.

Every year my husband and I take a long trip to places like Red Wood forest, Yellowstone, and Niagara Falls, etc. I would assign Tian to look up those places describing our tour routes. Upon my return, I would talk about the places with pictures.

When Hurricane RITA came, she and her family fled to Dallas. She kept on sending the messages about the hardship they were going through. At one point she wrote,” I hate this Hurricane. I can’t wait to go back home and sleep in my own bed.” She was reflecting the sentiment of so many people.

Tian was taking The History of Graphic Design class in the fall semester of 2005, with three other classes. She had to drive far for the classes. She explained how she could manage to study in the regular classroom.

She wrote,”I have the CART service which means that an interpreter types down on the CART for me what professor had said so I can read on the laptop. I prefer this to the American Sign Language.”

One day I wrote down detailed directions to my home. I was very worried. “ How would she call if she got lost or her car broke down!” Well, she showed up at my door without any problem. After that she did not find time to come for several weeks.

It was a cold dark Saturday night, one week before Thanksgiving. We had just finished our dinner. The doorbell rang and to my surprise, Tian was there holding a load of papers and books. She had come to my house only once before in daylight. We could not believe that she made it at nighttime to our house, which is not easy to find. She explained to me by talking, writing and with signs that she had to give ten minutes presentation in her classroom. She had to prepare the index cards and slides, and her teacher would help her with the reading part. We spread all the papers and books on the dining room table. She had done basic research about the subject. She had selected to write about the famous Russian Graphic Designer E. Lissinsky. We spent more than two hours reading, writing and deciding about slides. She said she would finish during the Thanksgiving holidays and would show me. At about ten o’clock, before leaving she admired my husband’s paintings. We both felt that Tian is someone special.

I waited for her to show up with the final draft of her presentation. Three weeks had passed and one Tuesday at five thirty she came running. She had only finished the first page. She had to leave at six fifteen to pick up her mother. I looked at her work and helped to put it in some order. But finally I had to say,  “This is too late. Now you are on your own.”

She gave me a hug before leaving and said, “ I will stay up whole night and will finish it.”

In two days I received an email saying, “ I stayed up the whole night to finish my presentation. My teacher praised my work, and I got an A for that. The next time I will show more discipline.” I was happily surprised. For her final grades she did not do that well, but she passed all the subjects.

I had asked her to come during the Christmas holidays to talk about some of the things other than her schoolwork. As a typical youth, I did not want her to forget the care and concern her parents were offering. She exchanged the gifts. I gave her a card, which said,
“ Treat your family, BEST,

Treat your friends, BETTER,

Treat the world, GOOD.”

She understood what I was trying to tell her. I told her that I was very proud of her, and her progress was the best gift of all. Her graduation was one and half years away but she invited me anyway, and I gladly accepted.

From then on, she was very comfortable coming to my house. Whenever the doorbell chimed unexpectedly, we knew  “Tian is here!”  During holidays she diligently read about Helen Keller, Princess Diana and JFK. She wrote pages about Helen Keller and JFK but forgot the rules of writing an essay. I was frustrated. I reminded her about the rules of Timeline and explained the best way I could and asked her to rewrite the essays.

The spring semester of 2006 started, and there was a lot of pressure on Tian. One thing she was very excited about was, her new red car. She kept on sending messages that she would stop by but she could not until the end of February.

Tian continued on with her surprise visits. One afternoon she showed up carrying half a dozen books and her heavy file. I told her, “I have only one hour; then I have to go to the Women’s Center training workshop.”  We set to work and prepared her resume, selected one novel by Virginia Wolf and designed business cards. I had to run when my husband reminded me of the time! The next day there was a long sweet letter on my email saying her teacher liked the work and she would come on Wednesday or Thursday. Lucky for her that most of the time she caught me at home.

I did not see Tian for the whole month of March while I was busy with my daughter’s wedding.  After I sent her a message, she came to see me a week before her finals. The book report, her portfolio, all her other assignments were due. Her instructor had returned her Book report with many discouraging notes, which were justified.  The following year she might be graduating as a Graphic Designer. We all felt somewhat frustrated.

She was applying for a scholarship. I prepared a recommendation letter which said, “I have tutored several students but I have not seen anyone else as hard working and focused as Tian, all through her family and financial crises. She is dedicated to her education.”

She needed to be more organized. As a parent I could understand her family’s concerns about her driving home late at nights.

I said, “It is dangerous to be on the road at late hours in the night.”

Her question made me laugh. Innocently she asked me, “ How do you know?”

I said, “I read in the papers.” I had to relay some stories.

She agreed but I didn’t know how much she would put into practice.

Somehow she completed her portfolio and received good response. She showed up at 8:30pm. on one Thursday night, when I had just comfortably settled down to watch my favorite show. She also sat and enjoyed my Indian show reading the subtitles. We worked till ten thirty. Due to the good report of her portfolio, she was in a cheerful mood. She went to my calendar on the wall and wrote under 25th of May, “Tian’s birthday. She will be 23 years old.”

It was Tuesday in the week of her final exams. Her father called and said Tian had come home about 5am the previous night and last night she did not come home. I was frantic with worries. I informed him that she had to submit one more paper on the following Friday, so she must be busy working on that, but WHERE? I sent her an urgent email message. The whole day passed but no news. Hesitantly, I called her father in the evening, and he told me that she had called. Now I was upset with her. The next day her message came telling me to calm down!  I could not believe that she could be so irresponsible. Her email said that she was looking forward to her birthday party with her hearing and hearing impaired friends.
Again her whole family went to Malaysia for the summer.

During summer we had a couple of email exchanges. I wasn’t very surprised when in the second week of August I received her email. She was very happy to be back in the United States. Her family had to go through the strict security checks after the latest August 2006 threats. This time her English had not suffered after the long summer visit.

She wrote, “Hello Saryu,
I want to let you know that I got back home from Malaysia yesterday, Thursday night at 11:00 p.m. I was exhausted because of jet lag. I hardly slept because of different times. I will be getting used to following the time in the U.S.A. real soon. I will hope to see you at your house again.  HCC opens on August 28th, 2006. I will have to register for five courses soon. My summer vacation was great. I went to visit my cousins and relatives. I enjoyed spending more time with my older cousin. That was fun. We went to the movies, beach, shop, and somewhere in Port Dickson (PD) in Malaysia. What did you do for the past summertime? Tell me about it, Mrs.Saryu.
The TSA was very strict that we had to throw away the beverages, liquids, shampoos, etc.
See you soon! Tian.”
This year’s tone was quite different than from all previous years. She used to feel that her cousins were not treating her right .Maybe, this is a good sign that now she is self-confident and wiser.
Friday 7.30pm, the doorbell rang. There she was smiling and hugging me. The fall semester had already started, and she was carrying around heavy stacks of papers and books. She excitedly handed me a gift. I was able to understand that she had gone to Singapore during her trip to Malaysia and got these earrings from there. I put them on to show her. She had signed up for four classes. She was taking ballet dance again. Interesting!
She said, “I will have to take one more class in spring semester and I will graduate in July 2007!!!”
She wrote, “ It is difficult to look at the professor, pay attention to the Interpreter and later read what she has written on my laptop.” Before she left, I wrote down three suggestions in her notebook.
Bring your GPA higher, which is absolutely necessary in finding a good job.
Try your best not to stay out late at the nighttime and if you do, let your family know.
Get organized.
After a few days, the doorbell rang at 10 o’clock at night. Tian was ready to walk in as soon I opened the door. But I was annoyed for two reasons; one that it was late and second, she was staying out so late in spite of my strong recommendation.
For the first time I said, “ No Tian, it is very late; you go home.”
She was surprised, but without any complaint, she hugged me and left. Then the following Friday, she came at about three o’clock in the afternoon, and I was helping her till six. When I wrote, “ Tian, I am tired,” she, being a young lady, could not realize that I can get tired! She said, “ Thank you,” and gathered her things and left.
This year we took a trip to Colorado in the month of October. When Tian came that Sunday evening, she did not have time to say, “Hello.” I was talking to a guest. Tian went straight to the dining table, sat down and started writing. So, like every year, did not talk about my trip. The subject of communication seemed quite difficult for her. So I suggested repeating it next year, but she was inclined to finish this year. I asked her to read the chapter while I finished cooking my dinner. The book was well written, but she had problems following the concept.
The following Sunday, around six in the evening I was telling my self, “ I better start straightening out the kitchen and start dinner.” I put away the book I was reading and started some work in the kitchen. The doorbell rang, and there she was with a smile asking me, “ How are you?” We started on her multiple choice questions homework. She just wanted me to check her answers. It was close to seven thirty so, I told her to go home. She wrote, “I have to write my report about the Ballet. Can I sit and write? You come back after cooking and please correct it!’ She wrote seven pages about the ballet, Emerging. The previous Saturday she had gone to see the ballet, as a part of her homework. She was thrilled to watch and also to hear the music. With the cochlea’s aid, she could hear the orchestra. –She enjoyed the sweet name ‘Rasagoola’ offered by my husband, Dilip.

Lately Tian showed up on Sunday afternoons.

It was October 22 2006, our Hindu’s Diwali-Newyear day. I was planning to go to an Indian classical music concert. It turned out to be good for Tian that I did not go. My husband was quite amused when he saw Tian’s red car pulled up in front of our house. He said, “ Now I know what made you stay home. She shows up without calling but she has yet to miss you.”

After her last visit, I had sent her a message. It said, “ Early to bed and early to rise, makes Tian wonderful. Please set your alarm clock 12 minutes earlier and start your day with a peaceful and pleasant smile.” I was curious to know if she had implemented any of my suggestions! But we got so busy I forgot all about it. After more than two hours, I positively had to coax her to gather her papers and hugged her goodbye.

It was December 2006 and the last three weeks of her Fall Semester. Tian sent me an email about her Instructor. I had seen her comments about Tian’s earlier work. The teacher had complimented Tian about her total work and her getting good passing grades.

She wrote,” I was worried in the beginning that you would not be able to complete this course. You have worked hard, and you have done it.” With that happy note she sent me several pages to correct. I received that report in the evening, and my husband suggested, “ You better finish that first; I will wait.” I was glad I did that because next day early Saturday morning I got a relay call from her inquiring about it. She had to finalize and prepare the power points.

The next email that came was sheer joy. She wrote, “ I have secured two A’s and two B’s and one C. I will be able to graduate in July 2007.” Her GPA was very decent.

I wrote back, “ I feel like I am also graduating!”

The holiday wishes included her desire to come by to see me but she never showed up. In January I got an invitation from the Literacy office for the annual volunteer appreciation brunch. I started thinking that this is a perfect time for Tian to express her appreciation to the teachers and to the Literacy staff. I suggested her name as the student speaker to Ms. Kathleen. She liked the idea very much. I sent the email to Tian and explained that if she would agree to come then that involves a short speech and two hours of fun time on the third Saturday in February. She agreed to come. So her name was printed on the program list.

It was a day before the event. Tian had not stopped by or sent an email of her speech. Ms. Kathleen and I were concerned. Right after my class, Ms. Kathleen inquired about Tian. I was embarrass to say that, “ I haven’t seen her speech.” I called my husband, and he told me that Tian had called and she would stop by that afternoon. She came prepared. I showed her my introduction. I rewrote her speech, and we were excited about the next day.

The event was held at a nice country club. Tian enjoyed the food and the attention very much. When I read her speech and she expressed in signs, my friend Dorothy and Ms.Kathleen were thrilled by the presentation. This event was very necessary for her parents to see Tian as a mature individual. I can recognize the nervousness of her parents, when Tian announced that she wanted to move to Dallas for further study.

Our picture came out in the newspaper. I felt good that I was an instrument to be there to make a change in someone’s life. People were impressed that I continued to help Tian for so many years, and I was impressed that Tian asked for my help. Tian was looking forward to graduating in about five months, July 2007, with a major in Graphic Design. That was five years ago and now seems like a naïve dream come true.

SARYU-introduced TIAN.

“Good morning!

I received a message from our Mrs.Peggy, ” Saryu, I want you to meet this delightful young lady. I hope that you have time to tutor her.” That was more than five years ago. She had graduated from high school and needed to improve her English to go to college. Miss Lynn, who is a speach therapist, Tian and I started this difficult journey with a lot of patience and persistence. Our tutoring, has continued at the Literacy Office, at the campus and at my house. Whenever the doorbell chimes unexpectedly, my husband says, “Here is your Tian!”  The tutoring has covered not only English but many other subjects. Her parents’ support and Tian’s hard work are exceptional.

In her first writing sample she wrote,” I will become a doctor or a nurse or maybe a Graphic Designer.”

‘Wow’, It seemed like a naive dream, but I am proud to say that this delightful young lady will be graduating from the University of Houston in July 2007. Graphic Design as her major, in spite of her physical challenges.

Here is Miss Tian Ong.”

I will read and Tian will sign.

Tian says,- “Hello everybody. I am Tian Ong.

I started coming to Literacy Council when I was 18 years old. There I met my wonderful tutor Mrs. Saryu Parikh for the first time. I was introduced to Mrs. Lynn the next week. I saw many students trying to learn English and so many kind teachers were helping them.

After a few months with my teachers, I was ready enough to be admitted at the community college. With their help and my family’s support, I have been stronger and successful. All these years, Mrs. Saryu says, she has learned a lot from me. The real reason is, she has helped me with many college classes. She is so awesome.

I do know that I will have to use sign language for the rest of my  life since I am hearing impaired. I appreciate Mrs. Lynn’s help. I would not have accomplished much without Literacy Council’s help. I want to  thank my parents, my tutors and Miss Kathleen. I feel very proud and   honored to be here. I plan to improve my skills all my life. I encourage other students to see what one can do with the support of the kind
helping hands.

Thank you……..”

There were tears of joy all around us.




* April 2007, the day before Tian’s Graduation day, the doorbell rang and Tian showed up to invite me for the graduation ceremony.  She was just confirmed to be successfully completing all the required courses.

* I was glad to see her email in July 2007.
“Hello Saryu, How are you doing? I am doing fine. I am sorry that I haven’t had time to visit you before I left for Malaysia. I will be back in the USA around August 10, 2007. I want to let you know about my good NEWS…..I got accepted by Texas Women’s University (TWU), so I will be studying graphic design to get a bachelor of arts (BA). I will be gone to study there for 3 years in Denton, Texas. I will miss you, and I will try to see you before I leave for TWU.  Miss you lots,      Tian.”
* Last year Tian came to see us with her
boyfriend Max.
* We had a pleasant surprise, an email Date: Sunday, May 16, 2010, 3:09 AM

“Hi Mrs. Saryu,
I am on a short break time for a nice vacation in Austin, Texas. We have arrivedhere last Friday night. I am at the hotel with my fiancé, Max. I would like to visit you at
your house. I hope you do receive this e-mail and I always think of you and miss you.
I am getting tired and I should go to bed. Have a good night!
Love, Tian”
They both came.  After three and half hours and about fifty pictures they left. I was deeply impressed with Max. He had moved near Dallas so they could meet on weekends. Tian will graduate in Graphic Design next year, and they want to move to Houston, near their parents. Still she is full of ideas. At one point she asked for my opinion about becoming a professional photographer after she is finished at Denton!

Life goes on. Let’s see what future brings to Tian!

December 14, 2010, 12:41 PM

Hi Saryu,
How are you?  I am soon taking my final exam tonight at 6pm. I inform you that I am going to graduate this Friday, Dec. 17, 2010, at 10am.  I am so excited about graduating this Friday. 🙂

I wish you could come to see me at my graduation ceremony this Friday, Dec. 17, 2010, at 10am. I understood that you told me and Max so earlier back then in Austin, TX, that you could not make it, except you would make it to attend for our future wedding. 🙂 That’s ok. I miss you a lot, Mrs. Saryu. Have a good day!


Your loving student,

Tian graduated, BS. Graphic Design and Dance. TWU, Denton, Texas. December. 2010.

Dear Tian,


I am very happy for you and proud of you.
slow and steady wins the race.
I wish you well in your life.
As you have held our helping hands,
I am sure
you will extend your helping hand to others.
I am always here for you.

Your loving teacher,

Mrs.Saryu Parikh



એક ટૂંકી સફર પછી, હું ભારતથી હ્યુસ્ટન, ટેક્સાસમાં, ઘેર પાછી ફરી  હતી. ફોન  પરના  સંદેશાઓમાં,  મિસ. પેનીનો  સંદેશો રસમય લાગ્યો. હું એક પુખ્ત વયના, પરદેશીઓને, અંગ્રેજી શીખવતી સેવાસંસ્થા સાથે જોડાયેલી હતી અને મિસ.પેની એના વ્યવસ્થાપક હતા. સંદેશામાં કહ્યું, “સરયૂ, એક મજાની બાળાને મળી શકશો? આશા છે કે એને અંગેજી શીખવવાનો સમય તમે ફાળવી શકો. બાળાનુ નામ છે, તીએન.”


તીએન અને તેના પિતા અમારી ઓફીસમાં મળવા આવ્યા. હસતી મજાની જાપાનની ગુડીયા જેવી તીએનને મળતા મને ખ્યાલ જ ન આવ્યો કે એ બોલતી નહોતી. એના પિતાએ પરિચય આપતા કહ્યું, “તીએન બચપણથી મૂંગી અને બહેરી છે.એને કાનમાં થોડા સમયથી, કોક્લિઅર ઇમ્પ્લાન્ટ, સાંભળી શકે તેવુ સાધન મુકાવ્યુ છે.” આટલા વર્ષોમાં પહેલી વખત કોઈ મૂક-બધિર વ્યક્તિને નજીકથી જાણવાનો પ્રસંગ આવેલો. મને થયું, ‘બસ, સાંભળી શકશે એટલે બોલતા પણ તરત શીખી જશે.’ મારી એ ધારણા સાવ ખોટી પડશે એ કલ્પના નહોતી.


પહેલે દિવસે મેં એને તેના ભવિષ્યના સપનાઓ અને ધ્યેય વિષે થોડું લખી લાવવા કહેલુ. બે પાના ભરીને લખાણ જેમા એનો ઉત્સાહ છલક્તો હતો. એને તો નર્સ કે ડોક્ટર, or graphic designer, આલેખન ચિત્રકાર બનવુ હતુ. ભાષાના વ્યાકરણ પરનુ પ્રભુત્વ નહોતુ પણ પોતાના વિચારો લખીને બરાબર જણાવ્યા હતાં. અમારી વાતચીત કાગળ પેનના માધ્યમથી ચાલુ થઈ. એ થોડા શબ્દો બોલવા પ્રયત્ન કરતી પણ મને ન સમજાતાં લખી બતાવતી હતી. એકાદ વર્ષથી એના માતા-પિતા અને એના કરતાં નાના એક  બહેન અને એક ભાઈ  સાથે મલેશિયાથી અહીં  ટેકસાસ, યુસએમાં    રહેવા આવેલ હતી. એના પિતાના કહેવા પ્રમાણે, હાઈસ્કુલ પુરી કરી પણ અંગ્રેજી બહુ સારૂ ન હોવાથી કોલેજમાં દાખલો મળવાની મુશ્કેલી હતી. મળવાનો સમય પુરો થતાં મને હસીને ભેટી.


તીએનની જરૂરિયાત જોઈ સંસ્થાના વ્યવસ્થાપક પાસે મેં પ્રસ્તાવ મુક્યો કે, “તીએન માટે speech therapist, ભાષા વિશેષજ્ઞ મળી શકે?” વ્યવસ્થાપક ઉત્સાહથી બોલ્યા, “હાં, આપણા સેવા શિક્ષકના સમૂહમાં એક નિવૃત્ત થયેલ ભાષા વિશેષજ્ઞ, મીસ.લીન છે.” અમને થયું કે, વાહ! હવે તો તીએનને અભ્યાસમાં બન્ને રીતે વેગ મળશે!


અઠવાડિઆમાં બે વખત, બે કલાક જેવો સમય અભ્યાસ માટે નક્કી કર્યો. એ મારી પાસે શીખી રહી હતી અને મને પણ ઘણુ નવુ શીખવા મળી રહ્યું હતું. બોલી ન શકાય અને સાંભળી ન શકાય એ વ્યક્તિની માનસિક સ્થિતિ કેવી હોય એ વિષય પર પહેલા મને ભાગ્યે જ વિચાર આવ્યો હશે. તીએનનો પરિચય વધતાં હું જોઈ શકી કે એને પોતાની ખામીઓનુ બંધન એટલુ નહોતુ જેટલુ અમને પૂર્ણાંગવાળા સમજદાર વડિલોને હતું. એ અનેક વખત અમને આશ્ચર્યમાં મુકી દેતી. ભાષા વિશેષજ્ઞ સાથે ઘણા ક્લાસ કર્યા પણ બોલવામાં ખાસ સફળતા ન મળી


કોલેજમાં દાખલ થતાં પહેલાની પરિક્ષા આપવાની તૈયારી કરી રહ્યા હતાં. પરિણામમાં ગણિતમાં સારા ગુણ આવ્યા પણ ઇંન્ગ્લીશમાં ઓછા હતાં. મ્હાણ community collegeમાં પ્રવેશ મળ્યો. એ તીએન અને એના કુટુંબ માટે સફળતાનુ પહેલું પગથીયું હતું. તીએન અમાપ ઉત્સાહથી મહેનત કરવા લાગી હતી. મને મૂંઝવણ થતી કે એ ક્લાસમાં કેવી રીતે સાંભળશે, સમજશે અને બધા સાથે ભળશે!


અમેરિકામાં બહેરા વિદ્યાર્થી માટે ખાસ સગવડતા કરી આપવાના નિયમ પ્રમાણે, ક્લાસમાં તીએનની બાજુમાં નક્કી કરેલ વ્યક્તિ બેસી કોમ્પ્યુટર પર અધ્યાપકનુ વ્યાખ્યાન ટાઈપ કરે. તીએનને વિષય તૈયાર કરવામાં ખુબ તકલિફ પડતી અને બધા કરતાં પાછળ પડી જતી. હવે ઈંન્ગ્લીશ સાથે સાથે બીજા વિષયો માટે પણ એને મારી મદદની જરૂર પડવા લાગી. હું અમારી સંસ્થામાં અને કોલેજની લાયબ્રેરીમાં પણ ભણાવવા જતી. નવા મિત્રોની પણ મદદ મળતી હતી.
વિસેક વર્ષની કન્યાને બીજા પણ ઘણા સામાજીક અને ધાર્મિક સવાલો ઉઠે.
એક દિવસ તીએન સાથે થયેલી ચર્ચા ખાસ યાદ આવે છે. અમે હેલન કેલર, જે મુંગા, બહેરા અને અંધ હોવા છતાંય જીવનમાં ઘણુ કરી ગયા. તીએનને મે કહ્યું કે, “તેઓ ગ્રેહામ બેલના સમકાલીન હતા.”
એણે નિર્દોષ ભાવથી લખીને પુછ્યું, “તો હેલન કેલર અને મી.બેલે લગ્ન કેમ ન કરી લીધા? એ લોકોના વારસદાર કેટલા બુધ્ધીમાન થાત ને!”  એનુ મગજ ક્યાં કામ કરે છે એ વિચારથી મને હસવું આવી ગયુ.


તીએનના મા મને એક દિવસ કહે, “અમે બૌધ ધર્મ પાળીએ છીએ. તીએન જરા વધારે પડતી ક્રીચ્યન અને ચર્ચ પાછળ ઘેલી થઈ રહી છે. તમે જરા સમજાવજોને.” એક દિવસ તીએને ચોકબોર્ડ પર લખ્યુ, ‘જીસસ, દાનવનો નાશ કરનાર.’
ક્લાસ પૂરો થતાં એ કહે કે, “આ લખાણ રહેવા દઈશ જેથી લોકો શીખી શકે.” મેં નીચે લખ્યુ, ‘ક્રીષ્નાની ભક્તિ કરો.’ મેં એને લખીને પૂછ્યું કે, “તું હવે ક્રીષ્નાની ભક્તિ કરીશ?” એ તો મુંજાઈ ગઈ.
મેં એને બને તેટલી સરળ રીતે, ધર્મ અને કર્મ વચ્ચેનુ સમતોલન સમજાવ્યુ અને એ પ્રેમપૂર્વક ધ્યાનથી સમજતી રહી. પછી ઉઠીને મને ભેટીને ઘેર જવા નીકળી.
એ મારી સાથે ફોન પર સંદેશો કહી શકતી. ખાસ વ્યવસ્થાને કારણે, એ ટાઈપ કરી ઓપરેટરને સંદેશો લખે અને એ મને  વાંચી સંભળાવે. પછી હું જવાબ કહું તે ઓપરેટર એને ટાઈપ કરી પહોચાડે. આને રીલે-ફોન કહેવાય છે.


સૌથી મોટી વાત એ બની કે તીએને કારડ્રાઈવ કરવાનો પરવાનો મેળવ્યો. એના મા-પિતાની સગવડતામાં, અને સાથે સાથે ચિંતામાં પણ, વધારો થયો. હવે એને જ્યારે પણ મદદની જરૂર પડે ત્યારે આવતી તેથી નક્કી સમય નહોતો રહ્યો. આશ્ચર્યની વાત એ હતી કે મેં એને એક વખત ઈમેઈલમાં અમારા ઘેર આવવાનો રસ્તો બતાવેલ, પણ એ દિવસે પહેલી વખત અંધારા થયા પછી, અમારે ઘેર આવીને ઘંટડી વગાડી!  પછી તો જ્યારે પણ ઓચિંતા ઘરની ઘંટડી વાગે ત્યારે મારા પતિ દિલીપ કહેતા, “આ તારી તીએન આવી.” એને છેલ્લી ઘડી સુધી વિષયોની તૈયારી કરવાની હોય તેથી કેટલીક વખત હું થાકુ ત્યારે ઘેર જવાનુ કહું તો હસીને ભેટીને ઘેર જતી રહે, પણ પછી લગભગ આખી રાત જાગીને કામ પુરૂ કરતી.


એ સમયે તીએન કોલેજના ચોથા વર્ષમાં હતી. મિત્રો સાથે બહાર બહુ સમય પસાર કરતી અને રાતના મોડેથી કારમાં એકલી ઘેર આવતી. એના માતા-પિતા અને મેં ઘણી વખત ચેતવણી આપી હતી છતાંય પરિક્ષાઓના દિવસોમાં એના પિતાનો મારા પર ફોન આવ્યો અને કહે, “ગઈકાલે તીએન ઘેર નથી આવી.”
મને ચિંતા થઈ ગઈ. છેક સાંજે તપાસ કરતા ખબર પડી કે ભણતા મોડુ થઈ ગયુ તેથી મિત્રને ઘેર ઉંઘી ગયેલી. અકળાવનાર વાત એ હતી કે એને અસલામતીની ગંભીરતા સમજાતી નહોતી.


દર વર્ષની રીત પ્રમાણે સેવા સંસ્થામાં સેવા આપનાર શિક્ષકોને સન્માન આપવા માટે વાર્ષિક ઉજવણી એક સરસ જગ્યાએ કરવાની હતી. હું એ સેવા સંસ્થામાં દસ વર્ષથી મદદ આપી રહી હતી.એમા એક જ સફળ વિદ્યાર્થીને આમંત્રિત કરવાની પ્રથા હતી. એ વર્ષે તીએનને આમંત્રિત કરવામાં આવી જેથી એની ખુશીનો પાર ન હતો.  આગલા દિવસોમાં મને આવીને લખાણ બતાવી ગઈ જેને મે મઠારી આપ્યુ. હજી એનુ ઇંન્ગ્લીશ બહુ સરસ નહોતુ.


કાર્યક્રમને દિવસે એ એના મા-પિતા સાથે આવેલી. બરાબર જમી અને બધાને પ્રેમથી મળી. અમારો બોલવાનો વારો આવ્યો ત્યારે પરિચય આપતા મેં કહ્યુઃ “આજથી પાંચેક વર્ષો પહેલા, જ્યારે મીસ.પેનીનો ફોન આવ્યો કે મારે એક મજાની કન્યાને ઈંન્ગ્લીશ શીખવવાનુ છે, મને કલ્પના ન હતી કે અમારી મુસાફરી આટલી આનંદ અને આશ્ચર્યથી ભિંજાયેલી
નિવડશે. તીએન મારી પાસેથી અને હું એની પાસેથી ઘણુ શીખી. એની અને એના કુટુંબની હિંમત અને ધગશ એને આજે કોલેજની સ્નાતક બનાવવામાં સફળ થઈ છે. એ હકિકત છે કે અમારી મદદ ઘણી મળી પણ મદદ આપનાર સામે મદદ
લેનારને હું એટલુ જ સન્માન આપુ છુ. એણે અમારી મદદને વેગ અને તેજ આપ્યા. હવે તીએનને જે કહેવું છે તે હું વાંચીશ અને તીએન સાંકેતિક ભાષામાં સમજાવશે.”


મારૂ વક્તવ્ય પુરૂ થતાં તાલીઓ સાથે દરેકના ચહેરા પર પ્રેમભર્યુ  હાસ્ય હતુ. તીએનને માટે તો એ જોઈને, મેં શું કહ્યુ હશે, એની કલ્પના કરવાની જ રહી.


મેં વાંચવાનુ શરૂ કર્યુ. “મારૂ નામ તીએન. લગભગ પાંચ વર્ષથી મીસ.સરયૂ મને મારા ધ્યેય પર પહોચવામાં મદદરૂપ થઈ રહ્યા છે. મને ખબર નથી કે એમનો સહારો ન હોત તો હું કયા વર્ગમાં ભણતી હોત! આજે મને આ સેવા સંસ્થા, મારા મા-પિતા, મીસ.લીન અને મિસ.સરયૂનો આભાર વ્યક્ત કરવાની તક આપવા બદલ તમારા સૌનો ધન્યવાદ. મને આ વર્ષોમાં ઇંન્ગ્લીશ ઉપરાંત બીજુ ઘણુ શીખવા મળ્યુ છે. મને ખબર છે કે હું સાંભળી કે બોલી શકવાની નથી પણ જીવનમાં પ્રગતિ કરવામાં એને રૂકાવટ નહીં બનવા દઉં અને એ તમારી પાસેથી હું શીખી. આભાર.”


એ સાથે તાલીઓ અને અનેક ભીની આંખો હસી રહી.


ઉપસંહારઃ  તીએન હ્યુસ્ટન કોલેજ પુરી કરી એના ઘરથી ચાર કલાક દૂર હોસ્ટેલમાં રહી ગ્રાફિક ડીઝાઇનમાં આગળ ભણવા ગઈ. શરૂઆતમાં એના માતા-પિતાને બહુ ચિંતા થઈ પણ એ આત્મવિશ્વાસથી સ્થીર રહી. લાંબા સમય પછી, એક દિવસ ઓચિંતા આવીને સાથે આવેલ સરસ અમેરિકન યુવક, જીમનો પરિચય કરાવ્યો. બન્ને પ્રેમમાં હતા અને જીમ થોડા મહિનાઓમાં જ સાંકેતિક ભાષા શીખી ગયો હતો. તીએન હજી પણ પૂર જોશમાં સપનાઓ ગુંથતી હતી અને હું અહોભાવથી જોતી રહી.


4 ટિપ્પણીઓ (+add yours?)

  1. Tian Ong
    મે 26, 2013 @ 21:46:28

    Dear Mrs. Saryu,
    I am so happy to hear you saying that you feel good that I held your helping hand during that special time of my life. Thank you for believing that when giver and receiver both are good, and hope things work out too. I was reading your book and felt so excited, smiling, and a little crying to remember the past time of what I used to be studying with you, spending time with you, visiting you at your house, studying my homework with you at your house, talking about my friend, and my personal life. I actually love your book of what you wrote, and it is very amazing. Your memory had a strong impact of what I did in the past time that you tutored me and had your patience time to teach me as well. I wanted to thank you for tutoring me and helping my English to improve during my teenager times.
    Of course, I will tell Max that you said Hello. Have a wonderful day!

    Love & Miss you,


    જવાબ આપો

  2. Peggy klasan
    ડીસેમ્બર 08, 2011 @ 23:00:44

    You are such a talented writer and sensitive soul—you inspire me with your words and your husband’s art!
    The Tian story is one I will never forget. It reminds me why I do my job every day with sensitivity.
    Thank you for the reminder!
    All my best,
    Peggy Klasen
    FortBend Literacy Council


    જવાબ આપો

  3. Jagat Avashia
    ડીસેમ્બર 19, 2009 @ 18:05:31

    oh…!! speechless after reading this whole page…hats off ma’am !


    જવાબ આપો

  4. Surinder Bharati
    સપ્ટેમ્બર 13, 2008 @ 20:44:57

    Saryu jee

    I am learning Gujrati to read your writings and hope will
    enjoy them in their original voice.


    જવાબ આપો

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