Mitu is a student of Institute of Education and Research at Dhaka University. But when she was five, she had to leave her home for a specialised school. The school, dedicated to visually impaired students like her eventually made her realise that she must learn to live alone.
Her parents used to visit her at the school named Baptist Mission Integrated School, but it never fulfilled the little girl's needs for care and emotional attachment.
Mitu represents the group of visually challenged people facing the ordeals of city life and social seclusion in Dhaka. Despite the ordeals, many among these people are continuing to thrive to meet unprecedented ends. Their determination, parental and filial support, some unique person and lastly technology take turns to come to their aid during their arduous journey through life.
"I have learnt to face the difficulties of life – from writing Braille to menstruation, by myself. My teachers were the first ones to extend their support for me. But now things have changed as I am living alone. I am learning by failing repeatedly but the good thing is I am still learning," said Mitu.
That little Mitu has indeed learnt to fight in life. She is completing her graduation. Almost every day she goes to the canteen, collects her food and takes the bus by herself and sometimes with the help of others.
At present, she can spot obstacles before her and differentiate between day and night. Thus she is seeking treatment from prominent hospitals. As yet, however, none of the doctors has managed to identify her problem.
"Socialising is never easy for us as 'normal' people do not show enough interest to even talk with us," said Shahin Sarker, another visually challenged student from Dhaka University. "Sometimes 'they' get irritated by our presence at social and cultural programmes as we need 'extra' help," the student of political science added.
Mitu could perform better in exams provided her teachers and classmates were more compassionate towards her. Sometimes she has suicidal tendencies but still, she manages to live as she has a greater mission in life.
However, apart from self – motivation the visually challenged people hardly find means to survive in the modern world. Shahin seemed to share Mitu's suicidal tendencies when he also reflected on the rarity of kindness he finds in society. He said, "At times people behave very unjustly, making me feel like I am not worthy of living in this earth".
For them, taking public transport and reaching the destination in time are regular challenges. Sometimes bus helpers, sometimes passengers and sometimes passers-by become their saviour. It depends on luck which is not in their control.
"I have been injured twice as drivers are often in a rush. But nobody thinks that stopping the bus is mandatory for people like me," Mohammad Sarower Hossen Khan, assistant librarian of Dhaka University Central Library said while sharing his experience of using public transport and the treatment he gets from people.
Despite certain additional problems for them in the modern world, technology has been a grand saviour. On the internet, there is virtually everything for them without any discrimination. The visually challenged from all ages and backgrounds reap the benefits of impartial technology.
Information on new trends in education available for free on the internet has helped the young and the old alike. Munni Akhter, a student of class eight said, "I like to read storybooks but rarely get them. Sometimes my parents let me read using digital media."
But most of the contents found through technology is yet to be translated into Bangla. Munni expressed her sorrow in this regard saying, "Most of those reading material is in English. So, I do not feel interested to continue reading them."
Thinking about living a "normal" life is a dream that they do not dare to entertain. Mitu does not want to get married before landing a job. In her words, "How can I expect to be treated well when even a deserving woman is not treated well in this country?"
Mitu's parents might be the only persons to console her. "I support my daughter in every situation. She is my gem and I have always treated her like that," said Mitu's mother Shefali Akhter.
Mitu wants press and print media to take vital role so that normal people could become sensitised and more compassionate towards people like them. In her words, "We are human being and we want to be treated like one. All we want is acceptance."
Though, along with many other things Sarower has missed his daughter's first steps still he feels blessed. His daughter appears to be the only source of happiness in his life.
"I have missed a lot of things in life but hearing my daughter Niharika's giggling and laughing gives me a reason to live," Sarower reflected. Niharika already knows how to direct her father through alleys even though she is only around two years old.
But parental ties should not be the only emotional support for the visually challenged people. They are missing out on a lot of blessings in life. Let us not ask any more questions to them. Rather, it is time to question our act and reread ourselves.