Deaf South Asian Americans: Zara’s Story

Screen Shot 2013-07-09 at 6.19.53 PMZara Husain is a Deaf Pakistani American scholar from Columbia University, who divides her time between the east coast and Lahore, Pakistan. She was kind enough to share some stories from her life with me, last November, at Gallaudet University’s Linguistics Department. Zara also runs the Lahore School for Speech and Language, promoting sign language for deaf children.

This is another video in a series of stories I’m collecting, documenting the experiences of the Deaf South Asian American community in Washington, DC. These stories are a part of the permanent collection with the South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA). While these experiences do not represent the entire community, they certainly offer some insight. We chatted last November, at Gallaudet University’s Linguistics Department.

In this video, Zara recalled a powerful and poignant memory about her mother, giving insight into the complex relationships we all have with our immigrant parents. Zara’s hearing mother insisted, for years, that she must get a cochlear implant. But even as a teenager, Zara felt that while cochlear implants are a wonderful technology, she just didn’t want to be held back by getting one.

Check out Zara’s incredible story:

Zara’s bio:

My name is Zara Husain. I was born in Pakistan, grew up there, moved to USA as a teenager and lived 4 years. Did high school here, then went back to my home country, did university studies there, married and had lived in VA for 9 years with my husband. Now Iam  residing in NY for school.

I am a full time PhD student at Columbia University. Also I am the Director of a school organization, Lahore Speech and Language School,  in Lahore, Pakistan that serves deaf children with best quality education.

I want people to know my story because I do feel that it is important that parents of deaf children who are from South Asia need to understand that their deaf children value their parents’ decisions about how they should spend their lives, but again, the children’s voices need to be heard. There are certain smart deaf children whose independent decision making skills are not appreciated by their families just because they are deaf? They need to be protected? I don’t think so. We as deaf children or youth do have a voice and it needs to be nurtured.

**Special thanks to: Wanette Reynolds, Frank Griffin, Stephanie Durand, and Amber Marchut for their help with this project!

**Update 7/3/2015: I’ve started a new program, Intersections Radio, with KBOO Community Radio. Zara’s story was featured as a part of the premiere episode, with a focus on the intersection of race and disabilities as we gear up for the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990). Sweta Suryanarayanan provided voiceover for this radio piece. Check out the podcast!
Air date: 7/3/2015: