As far as first impressions go, Ratheka Mariappan, comes across as a pleasant 27-year-old lass. Yet behind her calm and pleasant nature, lies hurdles she had to overcome being born deaf and mute.
The Seri Kembangan resident recently graduated with a Degree in Finance under the Faculty of Management (FOM) from Multimedia University, Cyberjaya. The youngest child with three elder siblings raised by a single mother after the demise of her father, Ratheka refused to allow being denied a job on the grounds of her disability to bring her down. If there is one thing to know about Ratheka, it is her fighting spirit!
Over the years, Ratheka has achieved a string of successes. An active athlete since her school days, she was selected as the state representative for badminton in Sukan Orang Pekak Malaysia (SOPMA).
As a beauty pageant contestant, Ratheka has also bagged two awards in the Miss Cultural Malaysia Deaf 2017 pageant as Top Model and Best Saree Model.
We connected with Ratheka on her recent milestone as an assistant administrative officer in the Ministry of Youth and Sports in Putrajaya, her graduation and the challenges living with a disability.
Here are highlights from the interview.
1. Congrats on your recent graduation from Multimedia University, Cyberjaya. How did it feel going up on stage to collect your scroll?
Thank you very much. I was very happy and proud of myself for the effort I put in. Over the course of my studies, I worked hard and gave my all to ensure I passed with flying colours. My character is such, once I make up my mind about something, I won’t stop until I achieve it.
2. What is a day at work like for you as an assistant administrative officer in the Ministry of Youth and Sports?
My day begins at 5 am in the morning. I travel to work via public transport. Sometimes, my colleague fetches me from the Serdang KTM train station and we have breakfast together. Work starts at 7.30 am and I usually take my lunch break for an hour around 1 pm to 2 pm and spend time with colleagues discussing methods to improve on work.
My colleagues are very friendly and constructive when giving pointers. My work usually ends around 4.30 pm. Once I reach home, I get some rest before helping my mother with house chores. Thus far, I love my job!
3. Speaking of work, you were initially denied a job opportunity due to your disability. Do you mind sharing your experience with us?
I first applied for a job in the government through Suruhanjaya Perkhidmatan Awam, Malaysia (SPA). After completing the computer test, I was called in for an interview at Putrajaya. The officers were impressed with my academic results and performance.
However, I was required to undergo a medical checkup to determine my health condition. The process from here was complicated as I was placed in the waiting list although my medical results were good and my disability does not affect my job performance.
This led me to Dr. Edward Devadason and the Make It Right Movement (MIRM) team. I related my experience to them. They offered assistance to speak to Jabatan Kebajikan Malaysia (JKM) and Jabatan Perkhidmatan Awam (JPA). By God’s grace, I eventually secured a job and wish to extend my gratitude to Dr. Edward and the MIRM team. I am honoured to serve the Government and will do my best to prove myself.
4. What about other challenges you have experienced as a child due to your disability?
During the initial stages, it was difficult. Even though my parents had discovered my hearing issues, I only received my first-ever hearing aid at the age of five making it difficult for me to understand and communicate with people.
For instance, no one could understand me except my mother. I had trouble catching vowel/consonants and I could not even pronounce my own name. However, my mother was very patient when she taught me.
My late father sent me to a primary school for gifted deaf kids who were like me. The experience was interesting because I loved learning about sign language. Through signing and reading, my education improved tremendously. Over the years, I picked up lip-reading skills, too.
5. You are truly an inspiration to all for encouraging people to look beyond mere disabilities. Do you have any words of encouragement for disabled youths like yourself?
Never allow negativity to affect your self-esteem or resort to a wrong decision because you are bullied or made fun of. Don’t give up. Work hard in silence and let success be your noise. Be mindful that you have what it takes to become the person you aspire to be. Study hard and strive to be equal with other normal people. Make your parents proud and heed their advice as they always have your best interest in mind. Last but not least, be grateful to God in all that you do and achieve in life.
6. What are your plans for the future? What would you like to tick off next from your wish list?
That’s a good question. I have a lot to achieve. As a child, I had dreams of becoming a teacher or a nurse. As time passed by, my interests changed as I became fascinated with Mathematics. Hence, I pursued a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance.
I really hope to pursue a career in finance. Although it’s not what I am doing at the moment, I will continue working towards that dream. Aside from that, I would like to live an inspiring life worthy of impacting others.
Article edited by Archana Patrick
*Featured image sourced from Ratheka Mariappan