Bibekananda Tripathi, 42, first met his wife Sasmita, 35, at school in their hometown Bhubaneswar in Odisha. It was a bond born out of love and empathy. They were both visually impaired and became close friends while learning how to negotiate a dark world at Bhima Bhoi School for the Blind.
Twenty-five years later, Bibekananda’s job as a stenographer with the Central government led them to Delhi, where they live in a two-room government accommodation in RK Puram in South Delhi.
The Tripathis couldn’t be happier. They have a wonderful nine-year-old son, Deepananda, who is a student of Class 4 at DAV RK Puram. Responsible beyond his years, Deepananda has become his parents’ eyes, helping them around and taking care of them. “They don’t need much help. They can both find their way around the neighbourhood on their own,” quips Deepananda.
Bibekananda advises all parents not to repeat the mistakes that led to him and his wife losing their vision when they were both around three years old. “Neither of us can recall what anything looks like. We experience the world through feel and touch,” he says.
“Please don’t ignore minor infections and get your children treated instead of going for home remedies,” he urges. Medical facilities have improved in his village, but he fears parents’ mindsets have not. “We both lost our vision from complications after a bout of severe diarrhoea and dehydration, and the lack of medical attention. I don’t want it to happen to anyone,” says Bibekananda.
On busy Delhi streets, most people help Bibekananda and his wife negotiate the traffic and crowds, but he gets more help from people from poorer sections than from the busy middle-classes.
“We rarely step out at night because of drunk-driving. People who drink and drive are even more blind than the two of us,” laughs Sasmita.
Their sole wish? “People are helpful but life would be a lot easier if public places had basic infrastructure such as disability-friendly footpaths, toilets, ramps, etc,” says Bibekananda.
Web Producer: Abhinash Kumar Jha