Indra was born in the remote village of Dagana, Bhutan—‘I was born as a normal boy who had everything’ Indra said. However at the age of four when he lost his mother, Indra came to realise he was totally blind. His sister is also visually impaired.
In 1990 he and his family were then exiled into Nepal for following the Hindu religion and resided in a refugee camp.
A colourful result of distinction
Indra first studied in Bhutan, then from Nepal he was sponsored to study in a Salvation Army blind school in India where he completed up to year 8. His education continued in the refugee camp, completing year 9 and 10. ‘I obtained a very colourful result and got a scholarship to study higher secondary—that is (year) 11 & 12’ Indra said. He then went on to help the teachers in the camp teach the vision impaired and deaf children to prepare themselves with mental skills for the future.
After high school he studied a Bachelor degree with a major in English and political science at a government college in Nepal. The study was difficult as he was studying with other students who were not visually impaired. ‘I again got another colourful result as I had never come second in my life’. Obtaining his Masters in political science was the pinnacle of Indra’s journey, obtaining the coveted distinction: ‘I hold a Master’s degree with a gold medal for being a top boy in my subject from Nepal.’
His greatest challenges completing study being blind was he didn’t have text books and whatever his teacher said, he had to write in braille. ‘I had a 4 line writing frame with a stylus with a sharp tip. It’s a very poor form of writing’. Today he uses a screen reader program called Job Access with Speech (JAWS).
After completing his Masters Indra chose to migrate to Australia, settling in Perth in February 2009. ‘Australia had some opportunities for people who are blind, vision impaired and who are vulnerable’. Indra quickly enrolled in Information Technology and Business Studies courses at the Association for the Blind in Western Australia, but this wasn’t his passion. Indra then decided to relocate to Adelaide and gain accreditation as a interpreter in the Nepalese language from the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI).
His first job in Adelaide was working for the Royal Society for the Blind in a factory. ‘My manager was a source of inspiration for me to join interpreting as he decided to pay for my NAATI accreditation fees.’ My manager said ‘if you want, everything is possible’. ‘Luckily I got through in the first sitting!’ Indra said.
Indra had a passion to interpret for TIS National since he was given the TIS National phone number (131 450) written on a card. After gaining his accreditation, Indra lodged his application and has now been working with TIS National since 2014. ‘I do enjoy working for TIS. TIS has support resources for the interpreter’ he said.
Challenges and rewards of being a visually impaired interpreter
‘My challenge is how to get to a venue if I am going for the first time’. Indra appreciates what he terms ‘friendly’ buildings, footpaths and public transport—if these were easy to navigate there would be nothing that would stop visually impaired people from working effectively as interpreters.
Being absolutely impartial and confidential is also a recurring challenge. People know Indra from living in the refugee camp so he often has to explain the role of the interpreter to them. If they attempt to talk before or after the interpreting assignment he politely says, ‘this is not the right place—I am the voice of the doctor [or agency] and I am your voice’.
While Indra is visually impaired, he actually finds phone interpreting can be more challenging than face-to-face [on-site] interpreting. ‘You listen and you can ask to repeat, but it is still challenging to me. You rely on only one of your senses—hearing. If the telephone line is bad, then you need to acknowledge this’, he said.
Indra finds the praise he receives from clients very rewarding. For example, the doctors and nurses often thank him because he arrives 10-15 minutes before the start of the appointment. ‘Nobody discourages me, this is the benefit I am getting’ he said.
The future of interpreting
Indra said ‘at the moment we are doing general interpreting, but this industry must specialise in separate fields’, suggesting hospital, legal, and general interpreting fields. He envisions specialised pathways for education in these fields being developed in the next few years.
‘I simply tell people, things don’t come if you sit at home and…[think] people will do it for you. These are the bygone days. Nobody has time to help you, you have to struggle. If you have a passion to join any industry and if you struggle there is nothing that is next to impossible. To me there are no limitations, I will not be stopping’ Indra said.