By Mrinal Talukdar
For him the world means darkness, absolute darkness. For him the world is only sound, varieties of sound. For him every little step in this world is a challenge and for him every day is an achievement. He is Kishore Bhattacharrya, for whom the world is just a small village. It does not matter that he is blind. It is a handicap he has never allowed to stand on his way. Today this young man from a village near Guwahati is an epitome of success despite his handicap.
Sitting across the small table with colored sun glasses over his eyes, Kishore is like any ordinary young man. But once he opens his mouth you realize in an instant that you are about to deal with a man who has in-depth knowledge in topics ranging from the swinging Waqoar Younis to the latest in Nuclear Technology and what Professor Yashpal has to say about the educational system of the country.
Breaking every conventional rule and every man-made barrier, he has not only used the handicap to his advantage, but today he has become a lecturer at Guwahati University, a prestigious post many covet. That is not the end. With humility he will tell you that his research on India's struggle for freedom is about to be completed and he is expecting to get the doctorate next year.
Coming from a poor background, Kishore is the son of a former school teacher from North Guwahati. He was barely starting college when his father died of cancer leaving behind Kishore, his young sister and mother to face the world with a pension of just Rs 1000. It was a period of great struggle. On the one hand there was the family to support and on the other hand there was the determination to complete the Masters degree. Kishore realized early that his chance of making into the world depended on his education. So, he took a ferry to the Guwahati University every day crossing the mighty river Brahamaputra.
Kishore, who became blind at the age of five, went on to break every expectation. To everyone's amazement, not only he went on to do well in every examination he took, but he found generous well wishers in the corporate community to get two scholarships of Rs 400 each per month. The money was small but it was a great relief for a family that barely survived with Rs 1000 a month.
It was a challenge that would humiliate even the most brilliant of students of his generation. There were no Braille books on history available anywhere in the country. He knew that search would be fruitless. He persuaded neighbors, friends, relatives and his own sister to read out text book after text book to him. He listened to them painstakingly and with razor sharp memory he converted them to the Braille script. It was a struggle which would bring tear to everyone¹s eye. But Kishore had little time for emotion. He remained undaunted, he was never tired. He had determination of steel to show the world what he could achieve despite his blindness. It was extremely hard work for three years converting volume after volume of history into Braille and then preparing for the Masters exams.
When the examinations came for the Masters Degree, every student of the University knew that Kishore would do well but few could imagine that he would stand second in the examinations. It was more than his mother could even dream of. Kishore achieved it with singular devotion. He showed the world that nothing is impossible.
But then began the real struggle. The struggle for finding a job and supporting a family. The three member family was waiting for Kishore to finish his studies and get decent employment to begin an easier life.
For Kishore, doing well in the examinations was easier than finding a job despite astounding examination results. Most refused to employ him because of his handicap and the hunt for a job continued for more than two years.
Kishore has made many influential friends, especially amongst the intelligentsia, but their collective effort to get a government job remained unsuccessful for more than two years. In between Kishore went on to achieve another goal‹meeting his childhood idol Sunil Gavaskar, the legendary cricket player. He was determined to meet him and in fact went to Mumbai alone. Not only could he contact Mr Gavaskar despite being a complete stranger but could actually get an appointment for more than half an hour. This young man, who knows about square drives and cover drives only through live commentary of cricket matches, knocked off India¹s greatest batsman with sheer determination. So complete is his love for Gavaskar that he carried gifts from Assam all the way for him. In return he asked for a photograph signed by Sunny. Sunny was too happy to oblige the request of a man who came all the way to Mumbai from 3000 kilometers away to meet him and then ask for a gift that he would never be able to see. Today Kishore is more comforable than any one of us on the streets and pavements of Guwahati that are full of millions of giant potholest.
After two years of fruitless search, Kishore got a temporary post of lecuterership in the History department at Guwahati University. His marks in the Post Graduate examination should have easily fetched a job but most employers have decided otherwise. He was denied a job in a college near his home as the Principal thought that Kishore could some day become a liability for the college.
In the meantime he published four of his works, three of which are poetry and one is a collection of essays. Each one received critical acclaim.
Behind the oversized sunglasses lies determination of steel. Flipping through the Braille edition of the recent issue of Reader¹s Digest he is thinking of going abroad for additonal higher studies and research. His passport is ready. The is making useful contacts and one day he will surely be flying out to achieve his ultimate ambition. Kishore will prove again‹anything possible
August 28, 1998
Mrinal Talukdar of Guwahati, Assam, has been working a journalist for more than ten years. A senior correspondent for a reputed news service network in India, he has volunteered to write a series of articles for Project CyberAssam and Assam On Line. We hope that his insightful articles will give a unique and Assamese perspective to the current situation in Assam to our readers from around the world.