The fascinating story of South Africa’s first deaf Chartered Accountant. She refused to let her deafness get in the way of her dreams, amitions and philosophies.
The main tenet behind Yann Martel’s bestseller, Life of Pi, is that one needs adversity in order to enable one to survive. Readers were in awe of how the narrator, young Piscine Molitor Patel, found himself stranded on a boat after a violent storm saw all passengers and crew dead, including his brother and parents.
He also had a zebra, a hyena , an Orangutan and a Bengal tiger for company. Whilst journeying to nowhere, his attention was focused on a weird duality: that of surviving on a seemingly merciless ocean and to also avoid the carnivorous instinct of the majestic tiger when he happened to be the sole survivor. Piscine is adamant that had it not been for the tiger, he would not have survived.
A fascinating parallel to Piscine and his life changing experience is reflected in the likes of Kashveera Chanderjith, South Africa’s first deaf Chartered Accountant. Like Piscine, Kashveera refused to let her deafness get in the way of her dreams, ambitions and philosophies. She refused to allow her “disability” to destroy her; instead, her apparent “shortcoming” actually defines her!
The tenacity of this youngster grew from a young and tender age and she learnt to be resilient and to not let the odd insult, malicious teasing and the blatant door slamming deter her. Paradoxically, it made her more resolute and went a long way to systematically constructing a self-esteem so tough that it makes titanium seem like play dough.
Part of the baking of Kashveera’s clay came from her parents who refused to give up. This added impetus to Kashveera’s development and phenomenal growth. This is indicative of Kashveera’s option of not attending a school for the deaf and not learning sign language! “What is normal?” quips this jovial lass. After enduring sometimes excruciating peer pressure and finding a niche, she achieved five distinctions in her matric year- this at a normal school. A remarkable achievement indeed!
She then enrolled to do her Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) with a Deloitte bursary. She graduated within three years, without failing a single subject, and became the first deaf graduate in the history of UKZN. Kashveera then proceeded to do her Honours at UNISA and graduated within one year in 2008. This bright spark also received the Golden Key Award for academic excellence during her first year of study.
The next hurdle was to complete her articles for three years at Deloitte Durban, and she passed both her qualifying board examinations on her very first attempt, and then became the first deaf chartered accountant in South Africa [CA(SA)].
Does the profession and deafness seem incongruous? Not for this spirited young lady who has the gift of a very broad vision and the ability to see the proverbial bigger picture. “The profession is a very rewarding one even though the road is demanding, do not despair – instead work hard. A CA(SA) after your name is well worth the long journey!
My journey to success has been a very long one, obviously with many upheavals and downfalls, but it has been a very fruitful one at the end. I also ensured that I studied hard at school and at university and even when I wrote my professional qualifying examinations. I used to sit in the front of the class or in the front of a lecture room, and still have the habit even in a meeting to sit in the front. My road has been a long one, one fraught with many challenges, but onward we must journey for the wheels of time halt for none. ” says Kashveera.
“I have client-facing roles which require extensive interpersonal skills. My clients have been more than understanding, most of them actually amazed and inspired. I have spread deaf awareness through corporate channels as well through a multitude of client interactions and have had the great fortune to break many perceptions including the perception that the deaf are dumb, which they are not, unless they choose to be. My struggle for inclusiveness is far from over, overcoming barriers was part of the journey. There were instances when I was mocked at, or made fun of, because I sounded different, but then I always rose above that, and strived to see goodness in everyone and everything. There were times when I was discriminated against, but that, along with being painful, gave me the great strength to get up and face my battle head on. There was this constant human rights battle which my father spearheaded for the vast majority of my life: the right to dignity, the right to education and the right to be free and heard,” says an insightful Chanderjith.
Kashveera is currently employed at Anglo American, a diversified mining company as part of their business assurance services. In this role, Chanderjith is responsible for dealing with risk, ethics, governance, forensics, and internal audits.
The CA(SA) profession has amassed a reputation that is unrivalled worldwide. The only way that this good reputation can be sustained is if competent and credible professionals join its ranks and add to the growing brand. It is clear that a CA(SA) of the stature of Kashveera will do just that! ❐
Author: Yuven Gounden; photography BrightLiquidLight.
Photos taken at The Maslow Hotel.