All of us have our share of troubles but the mere thought of losing our eyesight can leave us feeling paralysed. However, there are some amazing people in the world who despite going through this awful experience have achieved more than a person with normal vision can. Sami-ul-Haq Wani has set a glorious example of how to live life to the fullest. His ‘disability’ has not stopped him from living life the way he wanted to.
Wani, known in social circles as Sameer Wani, is currently a government school teacher, a resource coordinator, trainer, and motivational speaker. It was on January 9, 1981, when a middle class farming family of Drugmulla, a famous village in the northern frontier district of Kupwara, was blessed with a boy on the auspicious day of Friday. Ten years later, the boy was diagnosed with severe vision impairment. From there on a story unfolded which is a lesson in hope and courage.
Starting his journey as a student at Government Boys Middle School Drugmulla, Sameer soon caught the attention of his teachers and peers for his exceptional grasp over studies. Sameer suffered a major setback when doctors diagnosed him with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) – a rare, inherited degenerative eye disease that causes severe vision impairment (RP leads to gradual loss of sight). The family of Sameer was shattered and the search for a cure began with his elder brother, Nasrullah Wani, leaving no stone unturned to consult as many ophthalmologists as he possibly could.
Narrating the ordeal, Nasruallha says, “We ran from pillar to post and met almost every ophthalmologist in Kashmir and a few in Delhi, Amritsar and Bengaluru. The results were not fruitful. The doctors said it was a genetic disorder that cannot be cured.”
Sameer, undaunted, went on with his studies with a cheerful disposition. He passed both his matriculation and Class 12 exams with flying colours. Having a keen interest in English language, he happened to be the only student in Kashmir province who secured 98 marks out of 100 in English in his matriculation exam. When he was in higher secondary school, doctors advised him to quit studies. However, defying all odds, Sameer sailed against the tides and graduated from Government Degree College Handwara, in arts.
During college, his vision kept on declining. But his resolve to continue his education kept growing. With his command of the English language, and being gifted with a clear, lively voice, Sameer brought laurels to his college by not only participating in but winning prizes in debates, symposiums, seminars, and elocution competitions. During the course of time, it became a necessity for Sameer to be accompanied by escort students, as he struggled to walk alone. “For all the students the challenge was to speak on the podium, but for me the challenge was to reach the podium,” Sameer says, recalling the old days.
In the year 2005, Sameer was appointed as a Rehber-e-Taleem (ReT) teacher. This proved a “morale booster” for him. Working with zeal and zest, despite facing myriad challenges, Sameer was elevated to the position of resource coordinator/ teacher trainer in 2012. Not resting on his laurels, Sameer pursued his post graduation in Political Science through University of Kashmir’s distance education mode. He later earned a BEd degree as well. He is now pursuing a Masters in Public Administration through distance mode.
Sameer’s perseverance and mental strength not just won him worldly success but also marital bliss. He tied the knot in 2012 and has since been blessed with a daughter. On being asked about his wife’s role in his life, Sameer emphasised that marrying him was his wife’s first and biggest sacrifice. Sameer cannot read books now. His sight doesn’t allow him to write anymore. His wife holds his hand to take him out, reads for him, and lends him a shoulder to rest on.
Sameer has a presence on social networking sites, too. With the help of smartphone apps, he keeps himself busy in accumulating knowledge. Sameer has a galaxy of friends, whose contribution to his success cannot be overstated. Usually in the evening, after attending the mosque, Sameer along with his friends goes out to have a good time.
The turning point, according to Sameer, in his life was the interaction with Syed Humayun Qaiser, a radio wizard, on the popular show, “Meet a friend” on August 14, 2014, aired on Radio Kashmir Srinagar. Sameer shared his journey on the show and gained wide popularity across the Valley. During the show, Qaiser was full of praises for Sameer’s struggle and complimented him by appreciating Sameer’s communication skills. “That was the motivational moment which accelerated the gears of my life,” Sameer remarks. Since then, Sameer has participated in various shows on radio and TV. He speaks on various socio- cultural and educational issues.
A cricket enthusiast by heart, Sameer has grown up commentating on cricket fields. A great fan of Waqar Younus, he is very much in awe of the English commentators Nasser Hussain, Michael Holding and Tony Greig. Sameer has loved poetry since his childhood. Ahmad Faraz is his favourite poet. Sameer’s articulation of poetry has won many admirers, particularly among his colleagues and friends. Sameer’s love for ghazals and classic Hindi film songs has been a constant feature of his life. Mehdi Hassan, Kishore Kumar, Noor Jahan are in his favourite singers’ list.
Sameer provides training to teachers with an aim to impart various technical and teaching skills. He also deals with stress management, new learning techniques, and communication skills. Adding a new feather to his cap, amid this global pandemic lockdown, Sameer has been roped in by DSEK Srinagar to deliver English classes on All India Radio, Srinagar. He happens to be the only differently abled teacher in the valley to deliver classes of such kind!
When asked about his future aspirations, Sameer said he aims to write a book to describe his life journey. Sameer believes that there is no difference between a so-called normal person and one who is physically disabled. Once asked by a pellet victim how to survive with blindness, Sameer told him, “By calling black as the only colour.”