Arshad Iqbal is a 17-year-old boy who recently discovered that he loves to play the drums. He has the knack to play the instrument, but he did not know it till students at the Nixor College helped him and other students at his school by giving summer lessons in drumming and theatre.
Iqbal and his friends study at the Deaf Reach School (DRS), an institution that offers academic and vocational skills training for hearing-impaired individuals. With the help of these college students, 20 DRS students performed “I Am”, a musical that tells the story of a deaf boy named Arshad, at the Pakistan American Cultural Centre’s (PACC) Auditorium on Thursday afternoon.
In a play directed by Huma Nadeem, a sophomore at Nixor, Iqbal played the role of Arshad, a boy who has a deep-rooted passion to play the drums. As he strikes his drumsticks against the drum skin, Arshad thinks he is performing well. But his brilliance is not acknowledged by anyone; his mother and teachers discourage him and he feels shunned by society, till one day he wins the heart of a teacher who helps him deliver a spectacular performance.
With the help of his teacher and translator Jessica Johnson, the actor (Iqbal) tells The Express Tribune, “I have worked very hard at this play and I am glad everyone enjoyed my performance.” But then he adds: “I have a question for you: why are we deaf and why are we ignored by society? Until my mother told me there are others like me, I thought I was the only one in this world.”
A volunteer from the college, Mashaal Saaeed said, “We learnt a lot from these children. I am sure they learnt something from us too. For the first time we introduced deaf theatre in Pakistan and I am proud I was part of the team.”
Cheers from the crowd
Wild cheers were heard as the performance ended, with the audience raving about the performers’ talent. One guest said that the kids’ effort was admirable, while other young attendees gasped that it was “awesome”.
Sarah Shaikh, Marketing Manager of the Family Education Services Foundation which runs the Deaf Reach School said, “This was a novel opportunity and a great combination for both the institutes. It’s sad when you are told that you are deaf; that you have a PhD brain and an artistic inspiration. But the frustrating part of life is when your parents discourage you and the general community does not come forward to help you. For us, the idea was to show their talent to the world, their best face, and marvel at it.”
“I Am” was a one-day performance.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 23rd, 2012.