Mary, a student of Class IV, lives in Massar, a picturesque village housing about 600 people in the East Khashi Hills in Meghalaya. The village is, however, more known for a disability that plagues about 20 families than its beauty.
Massar, a village spread over two hills, has 43 deaf people, all of them belonging to the Nongsten clan. In what is one of the major problems in the village, and one that needs immediate intervention, the majority of the people of this clan suffer from progressive deafness.
Mary is the only member in her family who can still hear. But she too, is suffering from a mild hearing loss already. She responds well to loud sounds but does not hear softer sounds. Her disability is invisible. Often in course of a normal conversation she will stare at the person who is speaking to her. It is then that one realises that she is lip-reading. Her mother and her three brothers are all deaf and so is her maternal uncle who lives with them. The family makes brooms to sell for a living like several others in the village.
One of Mary’s brothers works in Shillong as a daily wage labourer to support the family. She has two hearing cousins. A fun-loving child, Mary loves playing with her friends and she enjoys school.
Mary doesn’t talk much, but she tends to smile a lot. A smile, after all, is known to be able to cross the boundaries of all language.
Mary, (left) with her friends (right)