A beacon of light

There are some names that never die

“All the birds have flown up and gone; 

A lonely cloud floats leisurely by. 

We never tire of looking at each other

Only the mountain and I.”

Courage is the spirit to deal with any physical disability that may otherwise cripple a person. It is not an easy job to reconcile with inadequacy. Impaired physical movement is a challenge for any normal functioning of the body. A person who attempts an adjustment despite his inadequacy and works hard for the positive development of personality is worth applause. Such people with a strong will, concentrate on strengthening self-reliance; avoid a succession of failures, and bring about a pleasant mental attitude to deal with all negative influences present in the society for physically challenged human beings. Physical defects and the methods to surmount them is a severe stress itself because people are usually confronted with many types of problems for which they need to mobilize a variety of defenses and mechanisms of adaptation, it is a constant endeavor. Defective body image thwarts their psycho-physical growth keeping their attention arrested around the deficit they suffer from. Such people are highly sensitive to the realities of pain and a sense of dejection makes them sad and inactive, especially if the family support is not conducive.  Suffering in silence, their frustration arising from emotional needs mixed with the activation of repressed unconscious conflicts disturb their overall structural and functional life processes. Their comfort zone gets disturbed easily with a slight distress around their life- space, creating an uncomfortable state of affairs frequently. In acute conditions, these sufferers take the adversity as a curse from God or punishment for some grave sins committed by them or their parents.

The psychological findings and research were proved wrong by a breeze of fresh air from summer and spring seasons called Ms.Neelofar Rasheed, my English teacher in class 12. The teacher on crutches had stolen my heart on the day first. Her smile was full of life without any whiff of the pain on her face due to and associated with the disability she suffered. I would rush to occupy a seat exactly in front of her, hold her crutches, and put those on the floor, settle her bag on the table, while she made herself comfortable on the chair. She would give me a smile of thanks and I would feel privileged by sitting exactly under her feet. A wonderful teacher that she was, she looked a relaxed person by her overall appearance with no anxiety, no complex that could lead her to an inner or outer conflict or frustration because of her inability to walk without support, she had learned to control all, like the way she exerted a command on her students. All of us loved her not by taking pity on her trauma and torment or empathize with her suffering or distress but because of fondness and respect; she provided enough chances to adore her as a versatile teacher. 

“It is uncertain if time travel to the past is physically possible but imagination and retention has no such barriers. It was on the day, 2 , while she got busy with the process of writing our names on her neatly kept roll-call register that she asked us to write a letter to our father, asking him to send rupees fifty by money order as same was needed to buy new books for our new grade.  As I had a little spark of imaginativeness, I wrote a pathetic letter to my father in heaven, telling him how difficult it was for my mother to continue with her life without his support and guidance. With less money now, she had to manage all the school and college demands for her five children. The trick worked successfully, I cashed in on the exploitation of my misery, and Ms. Rasheed had no excuse but to write “excellent” on my notebook. The journey of affection started in a classroom only to be continued later in the staffroom of Women’s college M.A.Road, where we worked together as colleagues, often sharing adjacent chairs and enjoying her enormous sense of humor that remained buttoned up during her lectures in class.

Disability is a complex phenomenon that limits a person to chances and opportunities in a typical society, the person needs special care and concern, and he must not be taken as an inferior individual. People who hold a concept of ‘a divine body’ must understand that decay and inability are finely woven with that divinity.  The concept of ‘handicapped’ is one of the most important issues in the contemporary society because stigmatization leads to the formation of prejudice against the ‘defective design’. It is very easy to nickname a disabled person but difficult to understand the pain it inflicts on him, to the sufferer, the visible deficits create invisible pain. 

Daughter of late Khawja Abdul Rashid, an IAS officer,  Neelofar Rashid was best known as Neeli Baji to her colleagues and associates. With a charismatic personality, like a lighthouse she illuminated the lives of thousands of students and her fellow teachers. She loved life with enthusiasm, always smiling and spreading positivity with a high spirit that would light up the college premises. Amicably dressed, she would give us a run for fashion with her aesthetically selected mix and match colors- schemes from her shoes to her bags; with her shawls and suits and sweater. She would knit cardigans for our soul-mates that would last for years. With intricate floral colorful designs, she would decorate our children. She was an active staff member, never held back by any adversity, often look after college administration, admissions; examination processes; would attend all the college functions; debates and symposia and never make her inability an issue or excuse to enjoy leisure and free time. She was a fantastic cook; pamper us on special occasions with almond and saffron meat korma, making her story of vigor and velour interesting by her journey from crutches to car, and leaving behind a legacy of courage and bravery for us to follow.

The legendry teacher died a few days back, making us orphan on an emotional scale forever.