About a third of the visually impaired people that I have talked with during my time at BERDO have reported typhoid as the reason for their blindness. Santosh Kumar Das of Sirajganj falls within this sizeable number. He lost his eyesight at the age of eight. He passed his class 10th examinations from a village school in 1992 and subsequently enrolled into a college. Santosh failed to complete class 12th.
In 1996, Santosh tried to get himself treated at the Rangpur civil hospital. The operation amounted to nothing. He took this failure in his stride and shifted base to Dhaka. Work, however, was not easy to find and he found himself shift from establishment to establishment like a rudderless ship. For a year he worked at a chalk manufacturing and packaging unit and earned Tk 600 a month. In the evenings, he would sell newspapers at a street intersection. Disenchanted by work at the chalk unit, Santosh left his job. He took a loan from a local money lender and started a betel-nut shop of his own. He now earned Tk 900 a month. Most of it was exhausted in the repayment of the loan. The shop that Santosh was so optimistic about was failing to generate enough profits. He sold it off and worked as a biscuit and chocolate vendor at the Tongi bus station, earning about Tk 30 a day in the process.
The year 2008 represented a turnaround of sorts for Santosh. In June, he met Saidul Huq from BERDO at a disability rights seminar. That same month, he attended training at the Bangladesh Telegraph and Telephone Board (BTTB) to be a telephone operator. Soon after, the placement wing at BERDO got Santosh a job in a bulb manufacturing unit at Gazipur. Santosh finds work at the factory exciting. “I fix circuits and coils and also do the final packaging”, he said. More importantly for him and his family, the job pays him Tk 2700 per month – reasonably well, considering the lowly wages prevalent in Bangladesh. I asked Santosh about the most significant change that his association with BERDO and the placement at the Energy Packing Company had brought into his life. “Certainty”, he promptly replied.
At the end of our conversation, I asked Santosh if I could take his picture. He rummaged into his bag, fished out an old passport-sized photograph and said, “You can use this one. I have it on my disabled card”. “Do you consider yourself lucky to have one?” I said. “Yes I do. Not every disabled person has one”, he said – with a hint of pride and a tinge of sadness.
Posted By Abhilash Medhi
Posted Sep 13th, 2009