Free your mind and the rest will follow

At Enable India, one of the things we emphasize for the visually impaired is mobility. We want all our visually impaired to travel independently anywhere without fear because this is a step towards their economic independence. When a company wants to hire them, they may hesitate if they feel the person cannot travel independently.

I remember an incident a couple of years back which happened with one of our visually impaired students, Hema. She is a bright lady who works in a leading bank as a telephone operator. She is around 30 years old and has a daughter who is sighted. She used to come for our weekend computer classes with either her mother or sister. When I realized that she does not travel independently on her own to any place, I was worried. As a woman, mother and a working person, she should rely only on herself for travel- what if her kid falls sick and nobody is at home and she has to be taken to the hospital? Definitely people may help but there is no subsitute for standing on your own feet.
Visually impaired travel is about using your other senses to the maximum, not worring about the consequences of the dangers of travel, asking for help at the right times, not getting fazed when people ignore you or are rude to you, being careful and confident every step of the way. This is easy to say but extremely extremely difficult to practice. “Free your mind and the rest will follow…”

We urged her to start traveling on her own. Many other visually impaired students shared their travel stories about being scared in the beginning and facing problems and mishaps all the time  .. falling into ditches, getting hit by autos, trucks, cows and what-not, attitude of people (“you people should sit at home and not come out!).

Despite all these and more issues, each one of them knew that there is no other way to live one’s life except being mobile and independent. She heard everything and was motivated, encouraged but still paralyzed with fear. We encouraged, cajoled, coaxed, pleaded, begged but to no avail. I knew she was intelligent, logical and understood why she needs to do it. Then why does the human brain behave this way? “Free your mind and the rest will follow…”

I told her that she did not need to learn to travel on her own immediately. I told her to take TWENTY YEARS (yes you read it right!) TWENTY YEARS to become completely independent. I told her that for the first five years, she should just hold her mother’s hand and her cane in the other hand. After the fifth year, she should  “use her cane” while holding her mother’s hand. After the tenth year, she should walk beside her mother with her cane but not hold her mother’s hand. After the fifteenth year, her mother should walk behind her at arms distance so that if there is any danger that she perceives, she can protect Hema. After the twentieth year, I told her that she could go on her own. Basically, the gist of my conversation was that – she should take her time but her time to START IS NOW!

The next day, I was looking out of the window waiting for a couple of students to arrive and I suddenly saw an auto pulling up near the institute and Hema GETTING OUT OF IT, ALONE! WITH A CANE! She paid the auto driver with a smile on her face. Her face spoke of freedom. I broke into a run and just hugged her. There was pandemonium in the class – everybody congratulated her – everybody was overjoyed that she had taken this step and HOW! No gradual steps for this lady – no holding hand for FIVE years etc etc… She was on step 3 already! Her mind was free. Did all the risks that she was worried about go away?? No. Would she face issues when she travels? Yes. Then how did she go to step 3…?

The saying is true – Free your mind and the rest will follow!!! WOW! Can we remember this every time we face a challenge?                                                                — Shanti Raghavan, Founder and Managing Trustee, Enable India

3 thoughts on “Free your mind and the rest will follow

  1. Yes, she is now far more independent. During my recent visit to her at Bangalore, she manage to take me to different places within her bank and outside as well. My whole hearted good wishes to entire team of Enable India and lovely Shanti in particular!!

  2. Ranjitha.S

    Inspiring thought indeed! What i liked the most is to remain independent , reagardless of the problems they face. Keep up the good work ppl.

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