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.

Where are you going to spend Eid?

09 Sep

Tehran, 2000

A young blind boy Mohammed waits for his father to take him home from boarding school. The father who is a widower wishes to remarry and is too embarrassed to say that he has a blind son. He wants his son to stay at school over the holidays. While he waits, the boy flings a stone at a predator – a cat, to save a fledgling that had fallen from its nest to the ground. He cups his hands together and picks it up. He puts it in his shirt pocket and carefully climbs up the tree to deposit it in its nest.

The Color of Paradise (source: www.imdb.com)

Cut to Dhaka, 2009

Mohammed Sajib is the only boy left at the School of Happy World at BERDO. The others have gone home for their Ramadan holidays. He roams the empty corridors of BERDO and keeps himself occupied with dominoes and a tattered ball. At other times, he fools around with a kitten. Sajib’s father is dead. His mother works in a plastic manufacturing unit at Tongi and barely earns enough to feed herself. Will Sajib’s mother come to take him home for Id, is the question on everyone’s mind at BERDO.

The similarities between the opening scene of Majid Majidi’s ‘The Color of Paradise’ and the scenes currently being played out at the BERDO office in Mirpur, Dhaka are difficult to miss.

Sajib was discovered outside the train station at Tongi by a BERDO scout. He had sores all over his body and was begging for food. His mother was contacted and Sajib was brought to the School of Happy World, where he has already spent a year. Tk 2700 was spent on his treatment. Sajib still has marks all over his limbs, but has no other ailment. He is bright and good with schoolwork.

“Where are you going to spend Eid?” I asked Sajib. “Tangail, at my grandmother’s house” – quick came the reply. “My mother is going to take me there”, he added. Little does he know that there is a distinct possibility that his mother might not turn up to take him home for Id. The people at BERDO do not seem to be complaining, however. They fear that once home his mother would send him out to beg. “When he returns, he will be as weak as a reed”, the cook tells me.

Sajib with his dominoes

In the movie, Mohammed’s father, overpowered by his love for his child, makes a mad dash into a raging river to rescue the drowning boy in the end. I realise that Sajib may not get to eat two square meals a day at home during Ramadan; that he, only eight years of age, might have to fast too – not out of the urge to attend to his religious duties, but forcibly, by compulsion. I also realise that there will be no dates in Sajib’s kitchen for him to steal (something that he does at BERDO, while the cook watches secretly with glee). But I still hope that this Mohammed spends Id in Tangail with his mother. For better or for worse.

Posted By Abhilash Medhi

Posted Sep 9th, 2009

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