Life suddenly went dark for Yasir but that did not deter him from pursuing studies. Sheikh Mudasir Amin brings us the success story of the 18-year-old who braved odds and with determination continued to pursue his dream.
For Yasir Ahmad Khan, 18, a resident of Hakura village in Anantnag, everything seemed to be going right. Then, all of a sudden, something so devastating happened as to change the very meaning of his life. He is visually impaired now. The scooter he would ride has also been sold.
Yasir completed his primary education from a local government school and then went to Higher Secondary School, Hakura, for middle and secondary education.
According to his teachers, he was highly talented and listed among the top students in the school. The Ramadan of 2014 did come with blessings but not for him. His eyesight was worsening by the day. Doctors in the department of ophthalmology at SMHS Hospital in Srinagar had assured him that there was a chance of recovery but when his eyesight only worsened, his family took him to AIIMS, Delhi.
He was operated upon twice in a month, but he didn’t recover. After the last surgery, he completely lost his eyesight.
“I never lost hope and always thought I will recover. But I didn’t. When the last surgery was done at AIIMS, I had a ray of hope. The doctors were removing the bandages and the room including my family was praying for my recovery. The cotton gauze was taken off and I was asked to open my eyes slowly. My heart was beating loudly in expectation and when I opened my eyes everything was black,” Yasir sobbed. “I wept loudly listening to the cries of my family, my world was black now.”
Yasir lost his eyesight when he was in 10th standard. His teachers did their best, encouraging him to come to school. But Yasir could not even read, so he left. He did not know what to do.
“The teachers did their best to teach me but being blind it was very difficult for me. I thought my life had ended as I could not read or write now. I would sit home all day and night thinking that my life had become useless,” Yasir said.
If that was not enough, he lost his father, a retired Hawaldar in the JAKLI regiment of the Indian Army, who was murdered while trying to settle a land dispute with a neighbour.
The untimely death of his father made Yasir lost any hope of a good life. He had to fight a psychological war with himself. Being the oldest child, he had to take the responsibility of looking after his family. They had only his father’s pension to live on.
“I tried my best to look for work but who would have taken someone who is a burden on others,” said Yasir. “So we had to live on that pension and on our agricultural land which was taken care of by my mother. I had become a pessimist.”
Then, one day, a neighbour came and asked Yasir to visit Chief Education Officer, Anantnag, for help.
“I went to his office and he advised me not to lose hope. He was a real messiah for me who directed DIET Anantnag to offer me all possible help. At DIET, Rubina madam came to my help and offered me all possible support. I was there for many months and they were looking after my education, trying to take me out of the gloom I was in. One day, an employee of DRG Anantnag, Ruksar Ahmad Parrey of Dialgam told me to contact Javaid Ahmad Tak, saying he runs a school called ‘Zaiba Aapa Institute of Inclusive Education’ for the specially-abled at Bijbehara. He took me to the institute where I met my mentor, my guru who showed me the path toward a better future.”
“When I first met Yasir, I saw him completely desolate. He was in a shock what happened to his eyesight instantly. But, I told Yasir not to lose hope, first encouraged him, then started his Braille training first at my institute and then at NIEPVD Dehradun,” said Javaid Ahmad Tak, the Coordinator and Head of Zaiba Aapa Institute of Inclusive Education for specially able. “I have seen extreme cases where many have been instigated to take an extreme step when they are handicapped at the later age through an accident, especially those with the spinal injuries or total visual impairment. But, when they are taken to my institute, we try our best to take them out of that gloom, encourage them, give them training and make them feel better.”
We would have made this institute more inclusive for these differently-abled but the paucity of funds comes as an obstacle, Javaid said.
“After I was trained, I was asked to appear in my 10th standard CBSE examination as a private candidate. I worked hard. I first thought that it is impossible but the soul inside me didn’t let me down in spite of challenges ahead. My first paper was in March this year at GTV Nagar Boys Higher Secondary School, Delhi. I appeared in Hindi, Mathematics, Science, Social Science and English. I did my best and when the results came, I passed with 68 per cent marks. Everyone in my family started crying when they learned I had passed,” Yasir said.
He is again moving to Delhi for further education and has appeared at AMU entrance examination 2018 and is awaiting results. He is now handling every electronic gadget, surfing the internet using Google voice feature and the talkback feature of the android applications for access. He wants to become a teacher for the differently able next to his mentor Javaid Ahmad Tak.
Today, Yasir believes his life has moved back on the track.
There are many like Yasir in Kashmir who are visually impaired but have not been taken care of both by the public and the government.
Steps must be taken to empower them through education – and make their lives better.