“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are”-E. E. Cummings, it was strongly evident from the girls we met at Calcutta Blind School.
The braille system was introduced to India not before late 19th century & along with that a few blind schools started coming up in different parts of India. In 1894 Rev. Lal Bihari Shah, a great philanthropist, laid the foundation stone of the first blind school in Eastern India, Calcutta, “Calcutta Blind School”. The school initiated with the motto of instilling self-confidence, self-dependence and enlightenment among the visually impaired.
Today the school along with having classes from kindergarten to 12th standard, has a vocational training centre. At the centre they are given the know-how to hone their skills which will ultimately make them independent in life.
On 29 th June, 2017 I, Shreya Tapaswi, and Sravasti Mukherjee went to the blind school to conduct an interview of ten students. Among them two were partially visually impaired while the rest were completely visually impaired.
The girls are set to become the independent citizens of the country. The multitalented personalities had one thing in common, that is all of them knew knitting, weaving, bookbinding and tailoring. The class XII students Sumitra Mahato, Riya and Pratima Mahato were dancers. Pratima Mahato also did bead-work. Shantana Ghosh, also in 12th standard, was a swimmer and a chess-player.
When they were asked that whether they faced difficulties in doing daily chores all of them said a “yes”. The problems were like
reading texts which are not in Braille, for that they always have to depend on someone to read them out, handling the new cash notes. Going to a new place is one of their biggest dreads. Nearly all of them knew how to read and write in Braille. Along with reading texts, but not for long hours, the partially visually impaired could also write using pen.
When it came to memorising, the tape-recorded teacher’s lectures are their only resort. But they seemed to be really worried about how they would learn or memorise once they graduate from the institute. They said with much excitement that they would love to have a machine that would read out for them (for the keenness they have for reading new books), recognize cash notes and thus make them independent at large.
They use mobiles only for calling, but not messaging. When it
comes to dialling new numbers they know the position of number keys on a keypad mobile, and can do it accordingly. All of them wants to have a mobile which would not only read out messages for them but also should be easy to type messages.
By the end of the interview we understood that these women are walking on the path of being self-dependent, and all we need to do now is to support them in being so.