In a world you can’t see

Visually impaired Sanya Zehra had to wait to go to school, till she was 11. At 17 now, she has secured 89 per cent in CBSE High School exams, reports Aliya Bashir

She is shy, but cannot hide her smile. She looks a bit uneasy but responds warmly to greetings by her aunt. “You have proved that nothing is impossible if a person is focused and serious to accomplish the goals. We are proud of you,” her aunt tells her with a kiss on her forehead.

Meet Sanya Zehra, 17, of Lal Bazar, Srinagar. She is visually impaired by birth. In her childhood when she would listen to the radio for hours, unlike her siblings who would go to school, she yearned for something. “I always used to be glued to my radio set for hours. But, I was very passionate about studies and gaining knowledge,” Sanya says with a smile.

Sanya has recently passed her high school exams, with 89 per cent (A-2 grade) under the Central Board of School Education from National Institute for the Visually Handicapped (NIVH) Dehradun, Uttarakhand. She topped among the 2200 blind students who sat in the exam and became the first blind student from J&K to achieve the feat.

“I am happy. But, I don’t want to get swayed by the compliments and greetings from my family and friends. I have still a long way to go. My dream is to get, as much as possible, laurels for my parents,” says Sanya.

Her subjects with top grade were Hindi, Sanskrit, music vocal and social science, with nine grade points and in English, she has secured eight grade points.
Sanya who had no primary schooling sat in the board examination with the help of a writer. In previous classes, she has used Braille.

“I don’t know what connotation sight has. All I know is my impairment cannot stop me from dreaming. I am very optimistic about living life to the full,” says Sanya who believes in maintaining distance from people who try to belittle her ambitions.

“I did not know before schooling that how much my life would change… When my family members used to start their day normally, I had my routines, and I didn’t think much about them.”

Sanya was six months old when doctors told her parents that she was 100 per cent blind.
It was a tough challenge for them.

“She was my first child. All my hopes and happiness were attached to her. But, when her blindness was confirmed, it was the most horrible experience for us,” says her mother, Roshan Ara almost breaking into sobs. “Still the pain is inexplicable. But, today I can proudly face my family and relatives with her amazing success.”
Sanya would spend her time at home until she was eleven.

“I used to move from pillar to post to get my daughter admitted in a school. But of little avail. I was not ready to send her to Abinanda blind home where she would be trained in chair-making and other items,” says a proud father, Abid Gowhar, an Associate Executive with the J&K Bank. “So while her siblings went to school, she would sit at home due to non- availability of a school for the blind in the valley.”

Gowhar says that he also tried to persuade the concerned officials for establishing a blind school in the valley. “When nothing was done I approached NIVH Dehradun after going through the track records of the school. Besides that I still remember the day when Sanya told me papa why can’t we have such kind of school in Kashmir,” he recalls.

So in 2004 Sanya was given direct admission to class 5 at NIVH on the basis of her strong general knowledge and IQ. Sanya doesn’t want to get highlighted till she achieves her goal. She wants to become a judge.

Apart from academics, Sanya has other interests too. With a sweet voice, she represented her school at a singing competition at Jaipur in 2008 and ended up as runner-up.

“Before going to school I was a radio-freak. From education programmes to every music show, I used to listen to both radio and TV for hours,” Sanya says while singing a few lines from the Bollywood movie Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna.

“I always participate in different singing shows at the school.”

Sanya doesn’t lament her disability and takes it as a challenge. She is inspired by the likes of Louis Braille, who invented Braille, and astronomer Galileo Galilei.

“Whenever I feel low, my father always encourages me by sharing the success stories of different people to boost my self-confidence. My parents are very supportive,” says Sanya.

Great works are performed, not by strength, but by perseverance, is very much true with Sanya.

She can operate computers as well as mobile phones. “I know how to use my mobile phone as I remember to find the saved numbers through search and even I can write messages but cannot see,” Sanya says.  “I also operate computers with a speaking software. Besides I listen to audio kits for my general knowledge.”

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