I Too Can!

What is needed to survive? Life goes beyond abilities bestowed upon by nature. What is truly needed is determination, enthusiasm, and the spirit to strive. While Sanoj Maharjan and Janak Raj Bhatta have been denied the ability to hear, their spirits stand strong with burning flames in their eyes and the willpower that keeps them going. They are on a mission to prove that a physical impairment will not dampen their spirits and their dreams. They believe ‘I too can!’

By Alfa M. Shakya
Photos by Anup Ale Magar
Interpreted by Sukant Man Singh

In 2016, the finale of Mister Deaf Asia 2018 was held in Taiwan, and amidst huge fanfare, two Nepalis stood tall with the most prestigious awards of the pageant; Sanoj Maharjan as ‘Mister Deaf Asia 2018’ and Janak Bhatta as ‘Mister Deaf Creative Model 2018’. WAVE encounters the talented handsome hunks to know more about them.

Sanoj Maharjan
Mister Deaf Asia 2018, Sanoj Maharjan—deaf by birth—is an undergraduate student who aims to become a trainer/mentor for the next edition of Mister and Miss Deaf International.

Mister Deaf Asia 2018 Sanoj Maharjan

• How did you feel after winning the title?
I felt surprised and happy. The competition with the contestants from eight Asian nations was really tough because all of them were excellent.

• What inspired you to participate in the pageant?
I had applied in 2017 through Creative Hands of Deaf Women but did not get selected from Nepal. I knew I wanted to try again and I worked harder. My friends Janak and Surabhi (Nepal representatives for Miss and Mister Deaf International 2017) encouraged me to apply for 2018 and I tried one more time and got selected.

• What was your goal as a participant?
My aim was to represent Nepal and to encourage my fellow deaf friends to participate in future events. I wanted to tell the world that deaf people are also capable enough to compete and achieve their aims.

• What are your thoughts on the pageant?
I feel the pageant was well-organized and fruitful. I had opportunities to showcase my talent through different activities like cultural performances, ramp-walk, etc. I also participated in trainings that have honed my skills. Besides, I was able to make international friends.

• What has pushed you forward in life?
After my parents realised that I was deaf, they were confused and worried. Soon they found out about a deaf school and I was admitted there. My family and friends are the pillars of my life and I wouldn’t be able to stand where I am without their support and encouragement.

• How do you get along in everyday life?
Communication is the biggest hurdle I have to face every day. Many times, I cannot even express my feeling. It is a little easier to communicate through sign language with other deaf friends, but communicating with friends who can hear still remains a big challenge. I taught my family and relatives some vocabulary of sign language which has helped me greatly. Sometimes, I try to write the words down in order to communicate.

“Deaf people need a lot of motivation and encouragement. Constant motivation encourages us to work harder, to try and explore many things. I believe that hearing impairment should not be a reason why we step back.” —Sanoj Maharjan

Janak Raj Bhatta
After reaching the ‘Top 5’ in Miss and Mister Deaf International 2017, Janak Raj Bhatta decided to participate in another category, Mister and Miss Deaf Model. Yet again, Bhatta was able to grab a prestigious title of Mister Deaf Creative Model 2018.

Mister Deaf Creative Model 2018 Janak Raj Bhatta

• What inspired you to participate in the pageant?
I was always interested in fashion modelling. I had seen it in TVs and magazines, and that got me interested. I knew I could do it; thus, I began searching for such opportunities for the deaf. I learnt about Miss and Mister Deaf International through Creative Hands of Deaf Women and got selected in 2017. I was able to reach the ‘top 5’ and decided that I wanted to try again. So, I participated in the Miss and Mister Deaf Model.

• What was your goal as a participant?
My aim was to motivate and inspire my fellow deaf friends to follow their dreams and to explore opportunities out there. I hoped that if they saw me participate in such events, they too would persist in their dreams.

• What are some of the challenges you have faced?
Communication is still the biggest challenge for me. I began my schooling in a deaf school in Gorkha after my parents found out about it through the community. I learnt vocabulary of sign language and my parents also learnt a few of it. It was tough for me to find a job. A huge communication lag left me in a difficult position, but I was able to find other deaf friends who informed me about the places they were working at.

• What pushes you forward in life?
I wouldn’t be able to follow my dreams if it weren’t for my family and their support. My fellow deaf friends’ constant encouragement has also kept me going.

• What are your future goals?
I plan to be involved in Miss and Mister Deaf Nepal and to motivate others who are interested in this field. I want to become a trainer and teach what I have learnt so far. I am also interested in photography and would like to explore this field.

“Bhatta turned deaf when he was just four months old after a disease, but he does not let his impairment get in between his dreams as he plans to explore the modelling world and become a trainer/mentor.”

Janak Raj BhattaMister Deaf Asia 2018Sanoj Maharjan