January 21, 2020
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There's Light At The End Of The Tunnel, Thanks To His Dristidan

There's Light At The End Of The Tunnel, Thanks To His Dristidan
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HE's blind but his foresight would dazzle any normal person. Of course, Kishor Bhattacharyya would resent being termed anything 'less than normal'. Founder of an ngo called Dristidan which aims at the welfare of the blind, Kishor is at the forefront of an effort to secure a rightful place for visually challenged people in the Northeast.

As a first step, Dristidan, which he founded with a few like-minded friends in early 1998, opened a Braille library in Guwahati last month. It's the only one of its kind in the region, says Kishor. Our idea is to provide easy access for the blind to books and journals useful to them. For instance, we've secured a Braille copy of a Central government gazette notification that details various schemes and assistance available for the blind.

A post-graduate in history from Guwahati University, Kishor has been a first-class student throughout. Currently an ad hoc lecturer in Guwahati University, Kishor's life so far is a story of one man's successful struggle against all odds. Having lost his eyesight to glaucoma at the age of five, Kishor didn't let adversity get the better of him. Instead, he worked doubly hard after entering the blind school. The reward: not only did Kishor secure 78 per cent in the matriculation exam, he obtained the highest marks in history throughout the state. Kishor's achievement should be viewed in the context of the method used by blind students to write their exam papers, a close friend points out. Sitting in a separate room from the 'normal' students, the blind hear someone read out the questions one by one. They in turn, dictate their answers to 'writers', approved and appointed by the Board. All blind students go through this process as did Kishor, and yet he came out with flying colours. That success spurred Kishor to continue studies.

Indeed, self-confidence is what sets Kishor apart from his fellow-sufferers. I've never felt inferior because I can't see, he says. Though he has suffered humiliation at the hands of insensitive individuals. Two instances are still fresh in his mind. Travelling on a night bus once, Kishor requested a fellow passenger to escort him to the place where the bus would stop for dinner. When it did, Kishor kept waiting for the man sitting next to him to take him to the eatery. After about 15 minutes, the man returned, apparently having had his food. When Kishor reminded him of his earlier request, his blunt reply: I don't help strangers, especially blind persons. Hurt and humiliated, Kishor shot back: Listen mister, I'm a lecturer in the university and can afford to feed 10 people like you. Another episode Kishor can't get over was the job he got in a college after competing with 'normal' aspirants. Despite getting an appointment letter, Kishor was not allowed to join, simply because he was blind even if he had the qualifications.

Having realised the blind have no voice, Kishor vowed to work for their welfare. Hence Dristidan. My simple aim is to give the blind the confidence to survive in this world, to tell them you can also be achievers. Through Dristidan, I'd like to bridge the gulf between the blind and people with sight. I want to generate ambition among them, says he, with a passion which burns fiercely.

As an immediate task for Dristidan, Kishor is organising a survey on blind people throughout the region. This survey would be in four categories and would enable us to know their problems first-hand, he says. At a later stage, Kishor plans to set up a shelter for the homeless blind in the Northeast.

Although Dristidan takes up a majority of his time, in no way does Kishor neglect his duties as a lecturer in history in the university. A popular teacher, Kishor reveals he has not faced any problem from his students. Perhaps the greatest tribute to him comes from the woman he's about to marry in February. She has realised Kishor's true worth as an achiever, a doer. And no, unlike many marriages among the blind, the lady isn't visually impaired. Kishor has many plans for the future if you want to be part of them, write to Dristidan, Pub Sarania Main Road, Guwahati-781 003 or call (0361) 650004.

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