Life with a white cane and a pen : Ashma Aryal

One day during class, my teacher asked, “How many of you are 10 years old? Raise your hands”. I didn’t raise my hands but I was very curious to know why.  It wasn’t only me; my friends were also equally curious. Soon after, our teacher ended our curiosity. She told us that Mahakavi Laxmi Prasad Devkota had written his first poem when he was 10 years old. While she was mentioning that, there were a lot of things going inside my mind. I was only 8 years old and I was asking myself if I too was able to write a poem or not. That evening, after reaching home, I jotted down few words in a piece of paper, and recited, like a poem, to my mother. After hearing, she told me that she really liked it. I was motivated to write more and then slowly, I started to write poems, stories, and essays. My work began to get published in many different children’s magazines. This inspired me to write more.

2Gradually, I was being known for my literature. When I was in school, I had already published my collection of poems and stories. I used to take part in different competitions. In the first competition, I had won the first prize and which motivated me a lot. I would normally win most of the competitions. Also, my teachers and even my mother would usually predict that I would win. Even my friends would assume that I will win the competition that I take part in. Most of the time it was inspiring but gradually I started to feel the pressure to win every competition. Later I realized that it is more important to improve your skill and build your capacity than to win the competitions.

I started to focus on how to improve my skills. I remember ever since I was little, I loved singing and humming songs. It must be because my mother sees me being happy whenever I sing. She had arranged a music class at home. As I started to learn more, I thought it would be nice to share what I had learned so far, thus, I began giving music lessons too.

Along with music, I never stopped studying and writing. Writing became a very important part of my life. Many times when I had no space to express my feelings, it was the only medium where I could vent. Maybe this is why I established an indispensable and spiritual relationship with writing.

I never had any aim in my life, I never functioned that way. That is why, apart from literature and music, I engaged myself in various different fields. My interests and my experiences are in different areas and I never thought that I need to be a master in one particular discipline.

I recall my childhood days when I think about the colorful moments of my life.

I was my mother’s first child and she was really happy. I could hear her talk but my mother was stunned when she found out that I wasn’t able to see her.  I was taken to the hospital, and I was diagnosed with visual impairment. My mother was in extreme shock and it took a while for her to accept my reality.

IMG_5860My mother visited Tilganga hospital many times for my eye treatment. During that course, she saw a huge crowd of people who had vision impairment, and that helped her realize the scene and gradually accept the truth. The only thing that my eyes are capable of differentiating is the brightness and the darkness of day and night. After accepting my truth, my mother started to focus on how to make me more competent and more capable. She also learned how to use Braille. Throughout my learning process, she never allowed my vision impairment to be my weakness. However, because there weren’t any disability-friendly schools for people like me, we were compelled to study in a regular school.

My mother is my ultimate inspiration. It is because of her that at 22 years of age, I feel very independent. It is not only me; my family also feels the same. Earlier, my grandmother used to worry about my marriage. She would think that no one will want to marry me but now she feels that anyone will be ready to marry me.

Even though we were competent, the education system and the fact that the curriculum was not constructed keeping people like me in consideration, we felt that the exam result didn’t justify our capacity.

IMG_5883Though I am visually impaired, I am forced to face more challenges because I am a woman. Our society has basic rudimentary norms and principles which makes it very difficult for me to function on a daily basis. I am not only a woman but a woman with disability. If I reach home a little late or hang out with my friends, my neighbor would sneak peek and make assumptions about me or question my family. I and my mother have faced these questions several times. This is not just because I am visually impaired but more so because I am a woman who is also visually impaired.

Once you are identified as a person with disability, the way people look at you is very different.

I have observed that in our society if you are born disability, you are left for the government to look after, assuming that you are their responsibility. Even in the families, the disability are cramped within the four walls in the name of security. I do feel bad regarding their stereotypical social attitude towards me but more than that I feel really sad for them and their perspectives. I cannot forget all those moments when I cried alone. My mother was always with me during those days to encourage me. My family members and my teachers always supported me on all my decisions.

This is not just because I am visually impaired but more so because I am a woman who is also visually impaired.

IMG_5829While analyzing my previous days, I think it’s my interests and the choices I made that got me where I am today.  I was a good student, and because of that my mother always wanted me to work in an office. Even today, she keeps insisting me to find a job. However, I always explain to her that maybe the job will keep her happy but it will not make me happy. I’ve always loved exploring various fields and learning from them.

While doing what you love, I realized that it is necessary to raise your voice about the issues concerning persons with disability. Hence, I have facilitated many different programs that were organized for disabled children with regard to their psychosocial wellbeing. It takes a lot of effort to convince the parents of  children to bring them to the camp. Despite the challenges I faced, I want to continue doing what I am doing that concerns children with disability. As of now, I am giving them online classes. Today, they are able to recognize the letters and alphabets. Some of them are able to write poems and stories as well. I am really happy to witness them getting better at it. When I hear their stories, it reminds me of my childhood days. It’s not my age but my experiences that have made me mature.

I have no complaints about not being able to live my teen life. My life experiences are my learning and this learning will guide me to live the rest of my life.

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