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December 12, 2004

Sounds of silence

From: Pune Newsline, India - Dec 12, 2004

The drama here is not a lengthy dialogue by the hero, the expression of joy, more than an exclamation is a clap. At the annual play competition for hearing impaired children, talent goes beyond just words

Aishwarya Mavinkurve

Pune, December 12: Emerging from the wings, for 130 hearing impaired participants in this competition, the stage held immense possibilities. ''No speech allowed" that was one of the unusual rules at this unique play competition. But it wasn't until that the actors came on stage that you would realise just how important the rule was. For at the ''22nd Annual Drama Competition for Deaf Children'' all participants were hearing impaired, some partially but many entirely.

Hence, when the children came on stage at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan auditorium on Saturday, expressions and hand movement conveyed the ideas of the plays.

Now in its 22nd year, this annual event conducted by the Lions Club Deccan Gymkhana, on every second Saturday of December, is a platform for the talented who do not let their disabilities cloud their efforts. Says Sumedha Kelkar, resource person at Bhave Primary School, unit for hearing impaired children, ''For many students this is an opportunity to show their talent, gain self-confidence and meet others like them. So they prepare for it with eagerness.''

The contestants in groups of 10 are given a topic in advance, like elections, festivals, pollution, marriage and so on. When they come to the venue, they pick chits to select their subjects and within 45 minutes of preparation for it are meant to present it.

Says Lion Arvind Dayama, chairman of the activity, ''While this competition has been on for so long, about five years ago we realised that the number of participants was dropping because until then they were meant to deliver dialogues. We then hit upon the idea of non-verbal communication for the play. Since then number of participating schools has gone up. This year we have 10 schools and 13 entries for the competition.'' The competition is held in categories of age-those between 3 and 10 years and those between 11 and 18 years-and another based on loss of hearing.

For students like Sohan Panchgram, from Bhave Primary School, who won the first prize, it is the sense of achievement which remains a motivating factor. Seasoned actor Nilu Phule's telling exclamation at the end of the competition sums it up—"This kind of acting without the support of the spoken word, I think, is harder than the one we practice."

© 2004 Pune Newsline