"I believe that all of us can do everything if only we try"
My name is Chandana Banik. I have been blind since childhood. I believe that all of us can do everything if only we try. I live in Naihati. As a kid I used to study in Naihati Blind School, I did not have this kind of faith in me then. But when I got admitted in class III in Behala Calcutta Blind School, the seed of this belief started growing in me.
Many of you may ask, “She can’t see, then how was she able to get an education?” I have educated myself using Braille. We align paper straight into a grid-like tool called ‘interpoint’, and by making holes in that paper using a stylus, we write in Braille. The alphabets are formed by the raised marks made on the paper as a result of perforating it. We recognize these alphabets as soon as we touch them with our fingers. At first we practice the technique by perforationg the paper and making six dots. Then we arrange these six dots in different ways and are able to write anything we want – A, B, C or the Bangla O, Aa, Ko, Kho.
My elder sister and my mother had a big contribution in developing this skill in me. They have supported me a lot in the face of other people’s opposition. At first when I used to find Braille very difficult, my sister learnt it herself and then patiently taught me.
When I got admitted in Naihati Garifa School in class XI, a different world opened up in me and I started having many dreams. From this time, I started filling in forms to apply for different competitive exams. Then when I started going to Naihati RBC College for my Graduate studies, my belief in myself strengthened. Those who hadn’t accepted me earlier, or had challenged me in negative ways, slowly started treating me as their favourite.
My dream was to become a teacher in the Blind School. But after my BA, when I was training in cooking and mobility (learning to move about using a cane) from a Govt. organization called NIVH, I got to know that we could also get the opportunity to teach in different general schools by qualifying the SSC exam. My world expanded after I got to know this. It was again from NIVH that I got to know of the Gita Basu Institute in Majherhat, where they train girls and boys like us in many things, starting from computers to preparing us for appearing in competitive exams. Here it is natural to ask how we are able to learn computers, though we can’t see. We have learnt computers using a software called JASS. Whenever a key is pressed, JASS announces which key it is. At first we set our hands to the keyboard by typing a, s, d, f, g... then we start to type. I have completed a basic course in computers and can use the internet.
Jharna Madam, the Principal of the Gita Basu Institute, introduced me to someone called Himalini-di. Himalinidi is associated with an NGO called Thoughtshop Foundation [TF]. Didi liked me, seeing how confident I was. Here I train in a lot of things - like Gender Awareness, and here I have learnt a lot of skills - like how to talk to people and how to help people who are falling behind. I have also learnt that it is not right to stereotype a person and judge her, as every person has not one, but many identities. Also, every person definitely has some good quality. My association with TF has made me more self-confident, and maybe that’s why I am being able to write all these things today.
My learning is not over. One of my dreams is to be a Trainer in TF, and share what I have learnt with other blind people like me. Today I see myself as a complete human being who has never learnt to lose.