Abhilash Medhi

Abhilash Medhi (Blind Education and Rehabilitation Development Organization (BERDO): Abhilash was born Assam, India. He earned a Bachelors degree in Civil Engineering from Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology, Nagpur, India and then worked as an Assistant Systems Engineer with Tata Consultancy Services in Mumbai, India. Abhilash also volunteered for Child Rights and You in Mumbai, India where he specialized in child labour laws, helped build alliances against child labour, and developed micro-credit schemes for poor women. Abhilash volunteered at the 2nd IEEE/ACM International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development (ICTD 2007). At the time of his fellowship Abhilash was pursuing a Master’s degree in Development Studies at The London School of Economics and Political Science.

Imran goes to School

08 Jul

Imran Bapari is from Rajarhat, a village in Rajshahi division in the north-western corner of Bangladesh. His father, a tailor, works in Rajarhat and his mother works in a garment manufacturing unit in Mirpur, Dhaka. Imran studies in Class III of The School of Happy World, a school run by BERDO for visually impaired children.

Imran had never been to school when a scout from BERDO noticed him in a Mirpur market with his mother. A little persuasion and the promise that Imran’s basic necessities would be taken care of did the trick. Imran was sent to BERDO – a place where he has now spent three years. His subjects at school are Bengali, English, Mathematics, Social Studies, Science and Religion. He likes Bengali and English the most. Braille books in Bangladesh are in short supply, meaning that Imran struggles to find books outside his curriculum. He has to read his school textbooks over and over again. He has however read a few books from the Braille library at BERDO – a book about Rabindranath Tagore’s childhood years and sonnets by Michael Madhusudan Dutt, among others. A Braille newspaper in Bangladesh still remains a distant dream and Imran and his schoolmates have to rely on others to get their daily fill of news. In two more years’ time, Imran will have to move out of The School of Happy World, as BERDO only has facilities to teach students till Class V. He will then attend a school for normal children in some other location in Dhaka. I asked him if he was prepared for life outside BERDO. “I shall be when the time comes. I have not yet thought about it”, said Imran. I asked him what he intends to study when he grows up. Showing maturity beyond his years, he said, “I don’t know if I’ll get the opportunity to study in a University. But I’ll try – as long as circumstances allow me”.

Imran Bapari

Students at the school lead a Spartan existence. Imran is no exception. He attends school from 9am to 1pm every day (except on Friday, which is a holiday), has lunch, takes a quick afternoon nap, studies for a bit in the evening, has dinner and then goes to bed again. And yes, in between, he plays a little bit of cricket in the late afternoon, with Sajib, a student of class I. Imran and Sajib are the two students at the School who can see partially. The eight other students are completely blind. In fact, Imran is fanatical about cricket. “Dhoni”, said Imran without batting an eyelid, when I asked him who his favourite cricketer was. His teacher Younusur Rehman did not agree. “I have seen better players”, he said. “Have you seen the way he bats? What power! He just about clobbers everything to the boundary”, said Imran, jumping to the defence of his hero. He has also been to the Sher-e-Bangla Cricket Stadium at Mirpur to watch a Test match between Bangladesh and New Zealand. He emanated joy as he described how the Bangladeshi team, riding on a match-saving knock by Mashrafe Mortaza, his other cricketing hero, managed to draw the match. As I sat there listening to his cricket stories, I wondered how he embodied the kind of religious fervour that a game of cricket generates in the Indian sub-continent.

Imran goes home thrice a year – for the summer, Id-ul-Fitr and Bakri-id. In his last holidays, he had been to Rajarhat, where he spent some time with his father. In the next, he will live with his mother in Dhaka. His mother drops in twice a month to see him. His father does not. Imran appears to be at peace with himself though. He appears to have reconciled to the limited number of choices and the overwhelming number of constraints that life has in store for him.

I asked Imran to pose with his cricket bat for a picture. “My bat is no good. It is broken and taped all over”, he said. He said he would only do it if I played a game of cricket with him. “Sure”, I said. He bowled me six deliveries that I tapped back in his direction. I bowled him six deliveries next. He missed the first two, edged the third, bunted the fourth in my direction and missed the fifth. The sixth delivery he clobbered to the on-side, with a pronounced bottom hand and a helicopter-like follow through. Shades of Dhoni, you reckon? Definitely!

Imran with his Cricket Bat

P.S.: Imran is also a fan of football and likes to have a kickabout sometimes. He doesn’t know names of many footballers but knows that Manchester United play at Old Trafford. Ronaldinho and Lionel Messi are his favourites.

Posted By Abhilash Medhi

Posted Jul 8th, 2009

1 Comment

  • Owen

    July 24, 2009


    Is ther no escape from Manchester United? I hope Imran finds Tagore more of an inspiration than Cristiano Ronaldo and the left-behinds !

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