Binni Kumari, a 28 year old Operations Manager with Score Foundation shares her courageous journey with us. Binni has been blind since she was six months old and suffers from glaucoma and micro-ophthalmia. But her condition is not what defines her. Let us find out more about this dainty-looking, cheerful young woman.
Tell us a little bit about yourself Binni.
I’ve been associated with the Score Foundation, a New Delhi-based Not-for-profit Organisation working towards empowering visually impaired people, for the last five years. I joined as a Helpdesk Executive, and now I’m the Helpdesk Operations Manager. We are into information dissemination on living life with blindness and low vision. I belong to a very small village from Uttar Pradesh. I am the youngest of six siblings. I and an older brother of mine are blind.
My blindness was detected at a very early age, when I was merely six months old. My mother’s brother, my mamaji, advised my parents to send us to school. There were many apprehensions and stigmas, given the fact that a girl with blindness is being sent to school. In villages, you are considered a burden if you can’t contribute economically. Also, a blind girl is perceived to be very vulnerable. My brother was sent to a special school and I went to a mainstream school.
What was it like, studying in a mainstream school as a visually impaired student?
There were some challenges. I am not from a well-off family. I was also an introvert. I had a tough time socializing with other students of my age. But I was quite good at academics. Most of my teachers were fairly good and I could manage with their help. But some of them were ignorant about life with blindness and low vision. There are many stereotypes about blindness in India.
I stayed in the hostel of the National Association for the Blind (NAB) for about 14 years. The people there trained me and prepared me for the academic rigour of joining mainstream schools. Till class 5, I was in DAV Model School, from 6-10th, I was in Delhi Police Public School (DPPS), Safdarjang Enclave, Delhi. Then for my 11th and 12th, I moved to DPS Vasant Kunj. Post that, I enrolled in a B.A. Political Science programme at IP College for Women, DU.
Putting academics aside, what was college life like?
In Extra Curricular Activities (ECA), I used to participate in quizzing activities. In NAB, I used to participate in theatre also. We used to have a few dramas and all. It was fun and it also moulded my personality. The most memorable role that I ever played – we were in a chorus, our faces were whitened with chalk powder. We were playing the role of ‘time’. White bedsheets were tucked across our chest. So, as individuals we were not distinguishable but we had an important role. I was never a good singer (laughs). My teacher used to tease me that I have never been able to hit the right notes.
I used to write poetry as well. I used to write pages, and then tear them off (chuckles). I believe you come up with your best work when you explore the creative arena yourself. One should just put pen to paper. One shouldn’t be conscious about whether the ideas will be accepted or not. That is when you are able to be your true, authentic self.
What were your goals and dreams post college?
I am a student of life. I wanted to explore as many things as possible. But that’s not the way life goes. One has to settle down somewhere or another. My first priority was not to be dependent on anyone financially, especially given my own family’s financial background. When I try to assist my parents, they say no we can’t take anything from you because you are a girl. But I protest this stereotype.
Kaul sir, the General Secretary of the All India Confederation of the Blind (AICB) advised me to undergo a training programme. AICB provides vocational courses and training facilities for persons with blindness and visual impairment. After undergoing training, I saw a job advertisement from the Score Foundation on Access India.
I applied for the position, went through the interview process and got a job at the Score Foundation’s helpdesk. I remember feeling scared and nervous. It was my first interview for a job. I went through two rounds of interview. One was a face-to-face interaction and the other was a skill test. Finally, I made it through.
What has been the best part of working at the helpdesk at Score Foundation?
I’ll share with you a recent story. A man with both visual and locomotor disability since the last 18 years, shared with me that his life had lost all meaning. I had advised him to join an NGO in Ahmedabad and undergo a rehabilitative process as he had lost his vision later in life. His life changed completely. And that gave me a lot of personal satisfaction. I have seen a lot of such stories over the past five years. With the grace of God, I shall see many more to come.
From a longer-term perspective, my life’s goal is to guide the masses in the right direction. My tilt is towards spirituality. There are a few reasons for this. Even among the spiritual community, you won’t find many people with disabilities. With my bitter experiences of past few years I have discovered that even the spiritual leaders are ignorant about and do not have vision for this marginalized group within the society. It is painful to note that so-called boastful God Conscious visionaries of Indian society underestimate the potential of the Human Resource of their so-called ‘Matrabhoomi’. They don’t know by doing this what their country is losing. I have gone through a lot of struggles in my life and I can share my experiences honestly with people. But I haven’t a suitable spiritual guide or mentor yet. In today’s time, it is important to have a good guide. My path should be equated with the current needs and scenario, so that people are not misguided.
That’s very interesting. On a lighthearted note, why don’t you start guiding the masses by first giving a message to the readers of Indspire Me?
Life is like a crossroads. There is an inspiring Hindi poem by Gopaldas Neeraj, ‘Jeevan Nahi Mara Karta Hai’. People should definitely read it. Difficult times are the best times when we can discover ourselves and our real, hidden potential.
We, as individuals are responsible for our own lives. It is up to us, which side to choose from the crossroads. I would suggest, choose the positive side. We have to streamline our choices and goals. That, I believe, will smoothen our lives. If the readers of your blog would like to get in touch, they can write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org .