Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Blind, but with a Vision

Amrith Bahadur Subba, 30-year old, a colleague of mine is visually impaired. He lost his eyesight to untreated red-eye epidemic that struck the vicinity when he was just nine.

Today he works as a counselor with Department of Youth and Sports, MoE in Thimphu. In addition to regular counseling, guidance and information services, he helps the management in administrative write-ups and organizing certain youth programmes.
Many people wonder how he, a blind person, works in his office. Let me mention here, I am also amazed at the way he works. Very professional in dealing his clients, he is also effective in all administrative works. If you’re seeing him working in his office for the first time, he would make you impressively awestruck.

In the office, most of the time he spends in front of his computer. Advanced technology has made it possible for him to work on the computer with the help of a screen-reading software called JAWS (Job Access With Speech) which reads anything that appears on the screen. Yes, he too is on facebook, Yahoo! Messenger, Skype and he too blogs. He uses HP printer and scanner without anyone’s help. He prepares his own presentation slides and uses the projector in a very proficient style. He can walk to and fro from his office to washroom without any escort. A good vocalist, he is very much interested composing songs. To his name, he produced an audio album in 2005.

Happily married to a caring wife and fathered two children, when at home, mostly he spends his time cooking. I am enthralled each time I watch him chopping the vegetables and cooking it. And after half an hour or so, he readies delicious ema datshi, ezey and other Indian-style curries. He can even cook non-veg. Hey, trust me, this writer has tasted his foods many times. Awesome!

Unlike other careless Bhutanese men, he wears gho himself. That’s also very neatly.

To briefly account his achievements, Amrith is a gold medalist in BA English Literature from Bharatiyar University, Tamil Nadu. After he stood fourth in RCSC exams 2005, he did his PG in Public Administration for one year from Royal Institute of Management, Simtokha.
He was considered one of the independent and very successful disabled persons in our country; however, an inevitable challenge had never stopped him from becoming completely independent. He couldn’t walk alone once he was out of his house and office-he always needed a person to escort him.

Many of you who know Amrith might have seen him every morning and evening being escorted to his office and back to his house. The person who has been escorting him is me. For the last one year, I helped him escorting as his wife had to stay home to babysit their young children. 

But a problem cropped up! There’s no one to escort him when I was away for tours, trainings or on leave. He became handicapped again!

It was in last April, a week-long Mobility Training for Disabled was conducted in Punakha. I encouraged him to participate in the training as it aimed to empower the disabled person through making them walk independently. Likewise, the training taught him the handling of the white cane (walking stick), finding shorelines of a road or footpath with the help of the cane, discovering landmarks (edge of a footpath) and how to walk on staircases.

However, even after the training he couldn’t walk alone as his house is half a mile away from the office. More difficult was that he has to cross two crowded traffics between Swimming Pool and Kelki School. But I had consistently encouraged him to make this audacious attempt.
Encouragement only was not enough. Everyday I had to train him on the route between his house and office. I escorted him, but this time mentioning him about shorelines of the footpaths, roads, traffics and landmarks of all the gates, fences, playgrounds and buildings. He studied, sensed and felt with his cane. From the third day, I made him walk on this route, unescorted. I would be behind him watching him walk with his cane and shouting at him if he had missed or overstepped the shorelines or landmarks. 
After one week of extensive training, I had to go for a fortnight-long training (resourced by NBCC, WHO) in Paro. One afternoon, when in Paro, I received a phone call from Amrith. It’s a good news, “Hey! I’ve become independent! Today I walked office alone. From now on, I can walk alone. Thank you, Rikku!”

As he was buoyed by his achievement, I also reveled in triumph and punched the air in celebration,


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

When a Large Family participates in the Election Day

Before 2005, the role of our family had been insignificant. However, as soon as our country raced preparing for the Constitutional Democratic Monarchy since 2005, each member of our family felt that we are of importance in the making of democratic government.

During the General Election Campaign in late 2007 and early 2008, our family members unanimously received unexpected attention and favorable treatments from the contesting candidates for NC and NA. Any kind of favor and support have they offered us. And they were seen, unbelievably, being pleasant to our family members, very courteous and helpful.

Now as the Local Government Election is on the card, again our family is already on the receiving end of a good behavior from the Gup and Tshogpa candidatures. Frequenting our house, they always offer us with doma or buy beers for my father. The official works which used to be done in one month are now being done in a couple of days. Meet us anywhere, they smile and talk nicely. It’s incredibly strange. Why are they treating our family differently from other families in the village?

Just a month ago, the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB) posted voter cards to us. And I just counted the number of registered and eligible voters in our family. There are 34 (out of 44) who can vote from our family in this Local Government Election Day. In my village, today there's a total of 260 eligible registered voters. That means 13.1 percent of the total voters are from our family.

However, this is a completely different and a huge responsibility on the shoulder of each member of our family-13.1 percent of all village responsibility yoked on our family. The decision of our family, right or wrong, is going to make a huge difference in this Election Day, in selecting the local leaders.

As a large family, having 13.1 percent of total votes in our hands, we remind ourselves solemnly that we should not be driven by the selfish inclination while voting for the candidates. When we mushroom together, especially during evening tea, the family members extensively discussed about the candidates. Keeping aside all the favoritism and good treatments that we receive every day, our family members are fueled by an unwavering oath to vote for the candidates who can benefit the whole village-who can answer the prevailing local concerns and issues, bring positive social changes in our village and strengthen the root of good governance.