Education is My Eyesight

Story of the heroic struggle of a child who became completely blind at the tender age of three, whose indomitable spirit and strenuous efforts helped him become a professor of sociology. DR. ZAKIR HUSSAIN BAQAVI narrates this heart-rending yet heart-

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Story of the heroic struggle of a child who became completely blind at the tender age of three, whose indomitable spirit and strenuous efforts helped him become a professor of sociology. DR. ZAKIR HUSSAIN BAQAVI narrates this heart-rending yet heart-

You are going to meet a blind professor who lost his eyesight due to brain fever when he was just a three years old child. In spite of this impediment, he studied and achieved educational excellence to become a professor. His achievements won our highest appreciation. This 35 years old young man faced the challenges of his life with courage and confidence in Gold’s will. Since telling the true story of his extraordinary struggle will be a source of inspiration for countless men and women who face difficulties. I am happy to narrate it.

His achievements are amazing and more than what a normal academician could have achieved. He is now teaching in the New College Chennai in the Department of Sociology. The college Principal Dr. Khader Batcha opines that Dr. Dastagir is an “asset to his college.”

Born in 1972 in an ordinary Muslim family in Madurai, a sprawling city in central Tamil Nadu. Dastagir’s self confidence, determinations, extraordinary memory power, strenuous efforts and hard works made him succeed in all his endeavours. The departmental head of Sociology in the New College Chennai, Prof. Malimar says that he is a prize-catch for our departments.

After having completed his Matriculation in Adyar St. Louise School for Blind, Dastagir continued his Higher Secondary studies at Muthiah Chettiar Higher Secondary School in Purasaiwalkam, Chennai. After that he joined the Madras Loyola College where he selected Sociology as his major. He bagged three Gold Medals during his career there. Mr. Dastagir was selected as the outstanding student at the completion of his Bachelor degree course in 1993. According to Prof. Alfonse Raj of the Sociology department, he was the model student who respected his teachers most. The same professor voluntarily came forward to be the Vocal Examiner for Dastagir’s Doctorate degree.

The Braille System helped him up to his matriculation and after that there was no such system for his further studies, yet he could secured 85 per cent marks and achieved first class in his higher secondary examination.

“My parents are illiterates. However, they worked hard to impart knowledge to me by reading word-by-word lessons on each subject. I would understand the lessons and get them by heart. My parents’ efforts in uplifting my educational standard are parallel to none”. This dutiful son recalls in his later years.

His younger brother, Abdul Kader always protected him and supported him as his own eyes. He would accompany him while going to school, to playground and to swimming trainings. He would also assist in his elder brother studies. In short, his whole family wholeheartedly supported him and has been a strong force behind his success.

There is an unforgettable person behind his educational endeavours. He is his father’s dearest friend of 59 years old, Mr. Sambasiva Shastry. He is a retired Railway employee. While Dastagir was studying in the Loyola College, Shastry had a daily routine of going from his Anna Nagar home to Dastagir’s Kodambakkam home to read him all his lessons. At that time Shastry was 65. When the lessons were many, Shastry used to stay at Dastagir’s home throughout the night. This used to be the case on almost all the days during his three years degree course.

“After studying in Tamil medium in the schools,” Dastagir elaborates, “I had to struggle a lot to cope up with the English medium in the college. And as far as the Loyola College is concerned, only those who excel in English could get first class in the examinations there. One can imagine my hard working in learning the English language fast and perfect that I secure first class in the first semester itself. After that, I passed in the first class in the university examination also. My efforts in mastering the English language helped me a lot in my research studies during later years.”

Dastagir obtained his Masters Degree in Sociology in the year 1995 and the Doctoral Degree in 1996.

His efforts during the achievement of the Doctoral Degree were marvellous. The Doctoral theme assigned to him was on ‘Independence in Irrigational Supremacy’, which required personal site visits and data collections. It was a rare and difficult subject and hence, only a handful of researchers have selected at throughout India. After two years of strenuous efforts by visiting 52 villages, he submitted his research paper to the university.

“Many kind-hearted souls have helped me by devoting their free times in reading to me the required reading materials,” Dastagir recalls, by adding that mostly among them were non-Muslims friends. They had created a special ‘contact net’ for this purpose. Their plan was to help the blind people like me to read at least for four hours in a week. They would be readily available whenever I had to go to the libraries. Two people will equally divide the reading time of six hours between them.

“During my visits to the 52 villages, my father accompanied me for most of the time. The villagers volunteered to help me irrespective of their religion, caste or creed wherever I went. My wife used to accompany me after our marriage.”

According to the Prof. Malimar, H.O.D. of the Sociology, Dr. Dastagir’s researches will be of helpful to the State and Central Governments who conduct plans to connect the nation’s rivers.

Dr. Dastgair, thus, joined the New College Sociology Dept., as the bona-fide teaching staff in 1995. Then, how will he manage the students? How he conducts the classes? It is pertinent that these questions will prop up in the minds of the people who are bestowed with vision. This blind doctor would answer those questions by his ability and dedication. During the same year, he was awarded the National Award for young scientist in sociology. At the age of 31, in 2003, the Tamil Nadu Government’s award for the ‘Best Serviceman’ was conferred to him.

In fact, his method of teaching, the way of controlling the students and the student’s cooperation in the New College are all quite different from the normal way of teachers.

“In the beginning, I’ll instil in my memory the names of the students, roll number and the tone of the individual student. Than, during the roll calls, I’ll hear the tone keenly from where it comes and record it. This will record the place of every student in my mind. Even if the students change their tones, I can easily trace out who the students are. Likewise, I’ll feel very soon if anybody enters into the class room.”

Dr. Dastagir recalls a funny incident, which happened during his routine teaching class. “One day, I felt that somebody suddenly entered into my class room in the middle of my teaching. I put a sudden break to my lecture and shouted at the person who entered: “Don’t you have manners that you should get permission before entering the class?” The person stopped immediately and said: ‘Very good! I like this very much!’ When I heard the voice, I realized that person was my H.O.D. Prof. Malimar. I was a bit shaken! But the kind Professor gently led me outside the classroom, explained the reason for his visit and appreciated me.

“My entire class will always be under my control. No one can enter into it and none can go out of it. All these, I feel, are by the mercy of God, the Almighty”.

The Almighty God, even if He gives any disability to a person, He bestows on him something, which will be extraordinary. In the case of Dastagir it is his extraordinary power.

While reporting to his H.O.D., Dr. Dastagir would give him all the required data of each and every student and his chief will record it accordingly. This used to be the daily activity in his department since he joined the college in 1995.

Dr. Dastagir conducts classes for the students of Masters degree and M.Phil. from Madurai Kamaraj University, Tamil Nadu Open University and Bharathi Dasan University. He, in addition to this, also takes classes for IAS aspirants enrolled in other institutions.

Salima Fahim, a resident of Bangalore, who participated for IAS training conducted by the Crescent College of Arts and Science at Vandalur, Chennai, consequently appointed as an IAS officer in the year 2006, opines that Dr. Dastagir’s encouragement and crescent guidance were the main forces behind her success.

Dr. Dastagir has, so far, been achieved more than twelve prizes, shields, diplomas and appreciations from various institutions. He has also participated in two international symposiums and twenty-one national conferences. He was among the few-selected individual to attend and submit research papers at the Two-Days National conference conducted by the Chennai IIT. Since June 2002 he’s been serving as the executive member of the Indian Sociology Science Association (ISSA).

“Not losing hope and faith to the repeated failures, excellent time management, inborn habit of self respect and not expecting sympathy from others on his disability are the special qualities of Mr. Dastagir. These are the roots for his achievements”, Says one of his mentors, Prof Alfonse.

“I have never felt pain and regretted that God has taken my eyesight except on one or two occasion,” recounts Dr. Dastagir with emotion, “I felt it at the time of my marriage for not being able to appreciate the beauty of my beloved wife. However, I am satisfied and thanks to myself that God has given me such a wonderful and caring wife. She takes care of me like a child. She prepares me to go to the college and then my children for the school. Everything happens miraculously in my life with the Help of the Almighty God.”


(to be continued)