Breaking the sound barrier

Stalin Thomas and Joseph Thomas learn to "speak" the language of computers

Stalin Thomas

Stalin and Joseph Thomas knew the world of deafening silences even though they had never heard a pin drop. Deaf and dumb since birth, the Mumbai-based brothers had never savored the chirping of sparrows at twilight, the cry of the baby or even the sounds of their own voices. Locked in an impenetrable bubble of quietness and distanced from the rest of the world by a silo of silence, Stalin and Joseph's life was a challenge, a constant battle against life beyond the stillness and their own debility.

T L Thomas and Rosy Thomas, parents to these disabled children, knew from the start that they had to lift their offspring from the quagmire of inadequacy and inability and help them bring "ordinary-ness" into their unusual realm. The task was gigantic and the pitfalls numerous. "Normal" schools had no place for the duo. Children laughed at them with a cruelty only children can muster. They had no speech to bridge the yawning divide that separated them from the rest of humanity.

However, what Stalin and Joseph lacked in terms of sensory strength, they more than made up with their indomitable spirit and determination. Both brothers pursued academics through special institutions, clearing key examinations, almost shoulder to shoulder with contemporaries.

Joseph Thomas

Their efforts might have been considered sufficient, if that was all they wanted. But of course there was more the siblings desired from their existence. They wanted to push themselves to the very edge of achievement and success and integrate into the new world opening up before them.

Realizing that tomorrow's environment would be all about technology and a completely automated world, the brothers decided to make their peace with the most crucial of 21st century tools-the computer.

An opportunity presented itself when NIIT rolled out its World Computer Literacy Day 2002 for the second successive year. Stalin and Joseph enrolled themselves at NIIT's Mumbai Kandivali (E) center and were pleasantly surprised at not being treated "differently". Backed and encouraged by a friendly, sensitive and extremely helpful faculty, the brothers overcame the hiccups that marked their first tryst with computers.

Day One might have been high on difficulty and low on comprehension, but it gave way to an immense bond between the teachers at the center and the two special students. Conversing through Notepad and Word, Stalin and Joseph learnt to follow the instructions of their helpful faculty members.

With computers, it was all very easy. A difficulty meant help was just a mouse click away. All they had to do was type out their problem in Word and have the instructor take care of it. The NIIT Center soon became a heaven for the brothers. Besides time on the home PC, the two would spend long hours at NIIT, "communicating" with the world through the Internet, "talking" to each other and bonding with friends and faculty at the institution. The domain of MS Word broke the sound barrier, removing any need for the spoken word. Using the language of computers, Joseph and Stalin were finally able to interface, interact and participate in the new, digitally-savvy, global village.

Over time, computers became a passion for Stalin and Joseph who began practicing what they had picked up on their own. They even registered themselves at and enrolled for the online examinations. While Stalin worked on a project on Mother Teresa, with the aim of loading the site on the Web, Joseph honed his expertise in the latest computer languages. Their efforts resulted in Stalin Thomas securing a diploma in "Web Designing" and Thomas managing a high 62 percent in "Programming in C++."

Today, the two brothers are busy making plans for their future-a future where computers occupy a key space. Using these wonder tools, Joseph and Stalin hope to build a career and create a niche for themselves in rapidly emerging reality.

Owning to IT, they are at par, if not one up on peers. Their computer knowledge has finally given them an edge in the world.