In life, we often feel discouraged due to problems. We want things to happen in a certain way, and when they don’t, we feel let down. We blame external factors for our unhappiness and our sad state of mind. We blame our family background, our education, our connections and our finances for our lack of success.
Today, I want to take all of us out of that state of mind by sharing the inspiring story of a woman that we should all know. She is a woman who has faced innumerable challenges in life. She is a woman who has been mocked and bullied because of how different she is. But despite all these challenges of life, she greeted life with a smile on her face. And her evergreen smile is an inspiration to us all.
Allow me to introduce you to Binni Kumar, a 28 year old manager who works with a Lajpat Nagar-based NGO called Score Foundation. Binni, is probably one of the most energetic, optimistic and affectionate people that you will meet. She is also one hundred percent dedicated to her work. She is always the first person to arrive, and the last person to leave the office. Binni is also blind, and has been, since the day she was born.
Hailing from a very small village in Uttar Pradesh, she is the youngest of six siblings. Binni completed her schooling from DPS Vasant Kunj, and did her graduation in Political Science (Honours) from IP College for Women, University of Delhi. Possessing an excellent memory, she has always been gifted at academics. These achievements are very impressive indeed, but they have not come easily to Binni.
She speaks with me about some of the challenges that she has faced, right from the time that she was very young. “My blindness was detected at a very early age, when I was merely six months old. My uncle, my mamaji, advised my parents to send me 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.”
It is indeed remarkable and praise-worthy for Binni’s uncle to have supported her education despite the censure of society. More people need to learn how to stand firm in their convictions, and do what they believe is right for them. Binni was sent to a mainstream school, for her primary level education. Not studying in a special school for blind children, there were many hurdles that she had to face. “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. Some of my teachers were ignorant about life with blindness and low vision. There are many stereotypes about blindness in India.”
Despite these challenges at school, Binni persevered. She kept expressing her creativity and imagination through other mediums too, not just academics. “I used to write poetry as well. I used to write pages, and then tear them off. 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.”
Indeed, listening to Binni drives home the point for all of us. We unnecessarily run after the approval of others, tailoring each and every one of our decisions to please them. We lose ourselves in the mirage of distorted mirrors, trying our best to be one step ahead in the rat race and instead, losing ourselves in the process.
Binni is very independent, even more so than most people in her peer group. She travels to and from her office to her home, all by herself. She enjoys her work because she knows that she is making a difference. She is helping other visually impaired people all over India. Score Foundation has a phone helpline that visually impaired people can call and get counselling on a variety of topics. Binni has counselled thousands of people over the course of her long and rich career. She tells me about one such case.
“I’ll share with you a recent story. A man with both visual and locomotor disability since the last 18 years contacted our helpline. He was in severe depression. He told me that his life had lost all meaning. Actually, he had lost his vision later in life, so that was a big shock for him. I advised him to join an NGO in Ahmedabad and get rehabilitated. He followed my advice, and honestly 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.”
As much as she loves her work, and is passionate towards it, Binni does not believe in all work and no play. She has a full life. She goes out on the weekends and enjoys herself, just like any other young woman of her age. No matter what challenges or obstacles life throws her way, she faces them with a reservoir of deep strength and optimism.
“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.”1