Matter of vision

At 16, Ghafoor Wahid began losing his eyesight. But His vision helped him prepare for the greater challenge life threw at him. Aliya Bashir reports.

Ghafoor Wahid

“Self-pity is our worst enemy and if we yield to it, we can never do anything wise in the world” says Ghafoor Wahid, 55, a man whose vision compensates his lost eyesight.

Ghafoor, a resident of Habak Srinagar, was in his teens when he came to know he was loosing eyesight. His doctor told him that in 18 years, he will lose it all.

“The doctor thought I was in shock; I was not. In fact I took it as a challenge, thinking that I am lucky enough to get 18 years to prepare myself,” says Ghafoor. So he did.

Losing sight even slowly, however, made things difficult. Ghafoor, who was studying at the International American Embassy School (IAE), New Delhi left studies after higher secondary and helped in the family orchards.

“I was facing lot of problems with my vision and I was not interested in studying in a blind school,” he says.

Later he ventured into tourism industry and joined a tour operating agency in Srinagar. As his impediment narrowed his scope for reading, Ghafoor enriched himself from interactions with people. Conversations meant gathering knowledge.

In the September of 1983, Ghafoor started his own tour operating company in Srinagar- “Caravans Kashmir Private Limited”. The company would organize trekking and cultural activities for tourists mainly from USA, UK and Australia until 1989. The outbreak of militancy put a stop on its business. “During that period I was not confident to further carry on my business and the company was closed,” he recalls.

He unsuccessfully tried to move his tour business to other states. After five years of struggle Ghafoor ventured into education sector. His schooling outside the state, and his interactions with people from different places had developed in him his own views on education.

“I had done my primary schooling in Burn Hall. Then, I went to Dehradun for one year and after that I studied at International American Embassy School (IAE), New Delhi till 12th class,” he says.

“But then it was my interaction with people that set the base.”

His counselling skills, sharpened in his stint in the tourism sector, opened up a new vista for him.

In 1993 he joined a private school. “I started to work as an advisor in Naseem Bagh private school and later I was promoted as principal of the school,” he says. He worked in the school for three years.

He was later hired by Tyndale Biscoe School in 1997 as an educational consultant, where he had to work three days a week. On part time basis, he also joined Kashmir Harvard Educational Institute in Habak area.

“My work was to help teachers in understanding the methodology of teaching. It was purely on the basis of interaction with them to better the educational standards in a school,” he says. He continued to work in both schools until October 2006. Then he joined Tibetan Public School, Hawal as Educational Consultant and later was appointed as Director of the school.

“My plan was to make sure that the students actually activate their brains rather than just receive from the teacher. My areas of interest are class management, lesson delivery and to engage the teachers outside the class,” says Ghafoor.

Last year Ghafoor joined ALOHA J&K, a child development centre as a resource person, where he shares his suggestions about proper grooming and development of children with teachers.

“In Aloha, we are working on a project to develop a modernized module of enhancing education system which can enable the child to cope with the ever growing challenges of life. We try to provide all these experiences through creative and modern education in an attractive and caring environment which can be spread to other institutes as well,” Ghafoor says.

Though, Ghafoor can no longer see, he plans for a brighter future of the new generation.

“In order to taste success that may come tomorrow, one has to orient towards the right path. And if we keep trying consistently, we will find a joy in overcoming obstacles,” he says.

But then it is easier said than done. He did put up a brave face early up in life, still he would be afraid of future and “wonder what is going to happen after five-six months”.

“Often the test of courage is not to die but to live with the circumstances. My initial response was to understand the fact that I will lose my sight after 18-20 years. I accepted my impairment and planned on how to settle myself,” he says.

He focused on what can be done rather than lamenting his loss.

Ghafoor believes that in Kashmir the problem lies in the fact that students are educated in theory and not in action. He wants to make parents understand that education and literacy are not only to earn money and status but the overall development of a child.

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