Lighting up a Life

It is not a big deal to change three buses to work everyday, use a cell phone, teach computers, or thread a needle; not even for Rifat Yasmeen, visually impaired by birth. Aliya Bashir reports.

Rifat Yasmeen

She is threading the needle of a sewing machine to hem a suit. Besides that, she is also making tireless efforts to fight the jigsaw of abstract designs to fill the flower-patterned and to carry out other knitting work.

Meet Rifat Yasmeen Zargar, 25, of Lal Bazar Srinagar. Rifat is visually impaired by birth and has no idea of the colours. She knits in a variety of designs. In her childhood when she would record the notes of teacher at school, unlike her sighted classmates, She hardly fancied of become a teacher. Today she teaches computers and Braille to visually impaired children at Composite Regional Centre (CRC), Bemina.

She has to change three buses to work daily, but that is not a hurdle. She can even use a mobile phone, and takes pains to choose her dress to wear to work every day like others.

“We have to fight life as it comes and win the battle,” says Rifat with a giggle. “I will work in each possible way, to let the world know that if we work with courage and determination, only sky is the limit”.

Rifat studied in a private school with no special facility for the blind, Islamia Mission in old city Srinagar. “I have always been groomed in a normal educational environment. The only difference was that I used to record all the lectures instead of taking notes,” says Rifat. “I used to listen to all those lectures thrice a day to keep them in my mind forever.”

With the help of a writer she sat in the secondary school board exams.

She finished her higher secondary in the same manner through India Gandhi National Open University. Now she is doing B.A in Sociology from the same University.

Things have not always been smooth.

“Although there were occasions when some people tested even teased me. Sometimes, it hurt. But today, I am very confident,” she beams.

With a three-year course in Braille with vocational trainings from CRC, she is an expert in using Braille Computer and Braille Shorthand. Besides, she has done one-year diploma from National Institute for the Visually Handicapped (NIVH), Dehradun, Uttarakhand.

“I was always optimistic since my childhood. My parents have always supported me. I have never felt inferior in front of my normal siblings,” says Rifat.

Courage, hope and an absence of self-pity have helped her to take on challenges.

“We started out learning Braille, making cane chairs and gradually learned more complex tasks. It’s important that people realize blindness is not impairment – it’s just an inconvenience,” says Rifat.

As an instructor, Rifat’s concern is to teach these special children to read and write effectively, to prepare them for the demands of life, work and college. “I want them to get fully acquainted with the feel that education allows communication across time and space. Their little contribution today can yield fruitful results for generations to come.”

To say Rifat has never been limited by her physical disability is a significant sarcasm. “Whatever I want to do, whether it’s finding my way through a building, studying or teaching my students, I just have to figure out how,” says Rifat. “I have to do things a bit differently, but, in the end, I get it done.”

Not just in academics, Rifat excels in sports and co-curricular activities.

She has stood first in a national charity dance show and was honoured as “inspiring” and “remarkable” dancer. “I have participated in Goonj Goonj program in Raj Bhawan and the theme was: plight of child labour in India. I was the winner and the huge audience applauded me,” beams Rifat.

From cricket field to chessboard, playing cards to hockey, for Rifat it’s a cakewalk. “I have played in many national games outside the state. My colleagues have always supported me resulting in victory for our team,” She says. For her achievements she repeatedly thanks God. At home she spends time reciting Quran. From the Aligarh Muslim University’s Ahmadi School for Blinds, she had done a special course in Quran recitation. “I want to perform Hajj at least once in my life. I believe God will hear my prayers,” she says.

And she keeps on dreaming further. “I am very enthusiastic to qualify KAS, besides I want to ease off those shortcomings that anyone among my blind community is facing,” She says while taking out her cell-phone from her jacket.

“I know how to use this gizmo. My family has assigned different tones and speed dials. I can’t read messages but I know how to open the various folders,” she says confidently and plays with the keys of her phone.


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