NAGAM (BUDGAM): Arif Nabi Yatoo and Musavir Nabi Yatoo, twin brothers and both blind since birth, have scored 88% and 93% marks, respectively, in the state board’s Class 10 exams. Belonging to a middle-class family in Nagam Chadoora in Budgam district, the brothers never took any coaching classes.
Talking to Kashmir Reader at their home, the duo said, “Although Allah has not bestowed us with the blessings of vision, it never affected our enthusiasm for studies, thanks to Allah, our parents, and our teachers. We never took any coaching classes. In school it were our teachers who read out the lessons to us during extra hours in school, and at home it was our family members who sat with us and ensured that we did not face any problem.”
Overwhelmed with his sons’ achievement, Ghulam Nabi Yatoo said with moistened eyes that he thought it was his bad luck that two blind children were born to him. “But we never let it become a hindrance. I hired a teacher from the locality who would sit with them and read out the notes to them. The rest is all their struggle,” Nabi said.
“In the beginning I was reluctant to send them to school, and so was their mother. It was the stereotypical approach of our society,” he said. “In 2010 we sent both of them to a Salafia institution for memorisation of the Holy Quran. They read there for a few years and memorised a good part of the Quran. But getting an education in a school with normal students was what they had dreamed of since childhood. So, we got them back home after three years in 2013.”
Nabi said that he asked the headmaster of the Government Middle School Nagam to give his sons admission, but they were reluctant. Musavir said of that time, “We could neither read nor write. The school teachers asked us to sit with nursery students. They told us that if we could pass the preliminary oral exams, we would be prompted to sixth class.”
“The exams were conducted and we passed it in one go. So, we started schooling from the sixth grade,” Musavir said.
During the same year, an anti-tobacco seminar was organised by a local boys’ higher secondary school, where scores of officials and teachers had gathered. “None of the students from our school had confidence to speak on that occasion. I put forward my claim to speak on behalf of the school. Many teachers and students spoke at that seminar, but my speech was motivational, spoken without any script. I was about to finish my speech when the Zonal officer came on stage and hugged me and kissed me on my forehead. It was a proud moment for me and, after that, I gained the trust of my teachers,” Musavir said.
The boys’ mother, Shaheena Begum, said that they gained knowledge by listening to the radio at home. Musavir said that the radio was his first teacher. “It can do wonders, if properly utilised, when it comes to social awareness and mass mobilisation,” Musavir said of the radio.
In 2014, after completing a year in the government school, the boys got admission to a private school, Sheikh-ul-Alam Islamia Model high school, run by Falahi Aam Trust (FAT).
Arif and Musvair both said that the three years they spent in this school were the “golden years” of their life. “They taught us like their own sons. Most of the times the teachers would teach us separately, besides teaching us along with other students in the classroom,” Arif said.
Arfat Ali, principal of the school, and Mohammad Ashraf, who taught social science, were the most helpful teachers, the boys said.
“Both of them had kept a separate day for us. On that day they would listen to all our queries, and repeat the things we could have missed during class. They cleared our confusions and provided helpful tips,” Arif said.
“Besides consulting teachers, we were recording their lectures in a voice recorder. We later memorised them at home,” he added.
The boys wrote their Board exams with the help of a scribe. Musavir scored 465 marks out of 500, just 31 short of the Kashmir topper, who secured 496.
Ghulam Nabi said that both his sons were interested in science, but he had advised them to study arts.
Asked for their message to fellow students, Arif and Musavir said, “You have to be dedicated and passionate towards studies. Don’t opt for streams just for show-off, but recognise your talent and go ahead with your favourite subject.”
Both Arif and Musavir have now opted for arts subjects. They said they intend to appear in the civil services examination after getting their degrees.
“One of the reasons I chose political science is that I want to contribute to society. I want to become a revolutionary political leader. Being blind is a reality but we should not make it a reason for dependence on others,” Arif said.
He added, “Kashmir has leadership crisis and I want to utilise my potential to provide a roadmap for the freedom movement in Kashmir.”
Musavir said he aspires to be a journalist, as he considers the “media” to be his teacher.
Both of them also said they want the government, civil society, and the general public to give more chances to physically challenged people. They said there should be a special school for blind students. “In normal schools, we have no facility. In the rest of India the scribes must be one class below, but here it is two classes below. Similarly, the government had promised us smart canes and smart phones, but their promises proved to be hollow slogans,” they said.