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The Rediff Special/Vijay Singh
October 21, 2003
Eknath Jadhav, 26, is listening to cricket commentary on radio. It is the second day of the second Test between India and New Zealand at Mohali, and the third Kiwi wicket has just fallen. Eknath lets out a whoop, and immediately two of his friends join him and they start talking about Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar.
They want to follow the game on television, but they cannot, because they are blind.
But there are no major regrets; after all, everyone has to make do with the hand they have been dealt. For these students at the MNB Industrial Home for the Blind in Jogeshwari (West), one faculty less just means making better use of whatever they have.
This philosophy extends to everything.
During Diwali, when everybody is busy celebrating, they find small ways to bring light into their own lives.
Eknath, who teaches how to make chairs, says he will leave for his village in Karjat taluka of Raigad district in Maharashtra in a couple of days. "I have bought saris and blouse pieces for my sisters. Although they always tell me not to get anything, I like to follow tradition and take something for them."
There was a time when he could see the joy on the faces of his sisters when he gave them gifts.
"I used to buy a lot of crackers when I was a kid," he remembers. "During those days crackers were not so expensive."
Eknath, who lost his vision at age 11, says he sometimes feels nervous during Diwali, "because I used to celebrate this festival with a lot of spirit.
"But we have to be realistic... we can't see. And if we fret too much, it will only affect our health."
Shankar Sathe, 30, has never seen light. He does not know the concept of colour. The world, for him, is pure geometry; it is something that he can explore only through touch, and then piece together with the help of his imagination.
"We celebrate Diwali with our wardens," he says. "It is a good time for us and we always enjoy with sweets and crackers."
Nityanand Swami, 26, who hails from Chennai, lost his vision at age eight. He wants to celebrate the festival with his brother, sister-in-law and their children in Mumbai.
Since he cannot light crackers himself, he says, "I join them in shouting."
Kallapa Ashok, 23, lost his vision nine years ago. His favourite is the 'atom bomb'. "Even now I like to hear its sound," he says.
He adds that he will spend Diwali with his family in Sangli, Maharashtra. "I have purchased a dress for my elder sister, who is married. I didn't buy clothes for other members of my family because of some financial problem."
The school authorities help these students in every possible way. They are their eyes, so to speak.
Superintendent Vikas Joseph says that on Diwali the students are taken to the school ground where crackers are lit and sweets distributed. "We light phooljhadis [sparklers] and give them; they feel the heat and enjoy."
The school's aim is to provide vocational training to its students so that they can earn a living. It provides board and lodging, welfare and recreational amenities, medical aid, and clothing free.Image: Rahil Shaikh
Photographs Jewella C Miranda