Gorkhatimes

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A blind soldier’s illuminated journey

Posted by Ramesh Khati on August 1, 2009

By:-BIKASH SANGRAULA

KATHMANDU, Aug 1: Captain Pawan Ghimire stands out among his 93,000 colleagues in Nepal Army for a peculiar reason: he is blind. And he stands out among the estimated 450,000 blind in the country for pioneering competitive cricket of the blind in Nepal.

“Blindness and my love for cricket make me special,” said Ghimire, 31, president of Cricket Association of the Blind (CAB), who grew up idolizing Sachin Tendulkar.

Ghimire lost his sight in an ambush set up by the Maoists on Aug 12, 2003 when the country was observing a ceasefire.

“People say such tragedy destroys a person´s life. In my case, the opposite happened. I rediscovered myself,” said the lively soldier whose only complaint is that he can no longer see his parents, and cannot ever picture his wife whom he married after losing his sight and his 20-month-old darling daughter.

pawanghimire2
Ambush

In 2003, Ghimire, who is from a well-off family in Lele, Lalitpur, was posted in Dailekh as lieutenant. In the second week of August that year he and his 250 colleagues were given the responsibility to inspect the Jumla-Kalikot road for a week. The army had been given the responsibility to build the road.

On the second-last day of the inspection operation, the soldiers were retreating after their regular morning inspection. It was 10:30 a.m. Unaware of what awaited him, Ghimire stepped on an underground mine, and heard an explosion that left him semi-conscious.

“I had heard that people have a foreboding of such incidents. But I was totally unprepared. A ceasefire was in place and there was no reason to fear an ambush,” said the stocky soldier, who was the only soldier injured by the blast.

The explosion dislodged both of Ghimire´s eyeballs from the sockets. The eyeballs were literally dangling from the sockets when he was evacuated to Nepalgunj by a chopper and from Nepalgunj to Army Hospital in Chaunni, Kathmandu by a plane.

The Maoists later justified the ambush saying the soldiers had overstepped the radius of five-kilometers from the barracks that the army had agreed to limit soldiers to during the ceasefire.

“From the moment of the explosion, I was unable to see. Upon the insistence of family members I visited many doctors in Nepal and India, but I for myself had resigned to the life of darkness right from the beginning. I don´t know why, but I knew from the moment of the tragedy that I wouldn´t see for the rest of my life,” he said.

Ghimire spent 18 months trying to come to terms with his disability. He was unsure whether he was of any use any longer to anyone, including himself. After his loss of sight, he sensed that people, including friends and relatives, had started avoiding him. It was a painful realization.

Rediscovery

pawanghimireAnguished by his son´s seclusion, Ghimire´s father, a former branch manager with Rastriya Banijya Bank, persuaded him to visit Nepal Association of the Blind located in Maharajgunj to take up computer classes with audio software that is used to assist the blind.

“My visit to the association, where I met many people with similar disability, and heard out their stories, changed my life,” Ghimire explained.

“Most of them had no jobs, no property and no one to take care of them. And here was I from a well-off family, a job in the army and my whole joint family comprising my parents, my elder brother and my younger brother to take care of me. I understood that I could do a lot to empower the blind,” he said.

Six months after taking computer classes at the association, two officials from Pakistan Blind Cricket Council visited the association to spread knowledge about blind cricket. Ghimire keenly listened to them as he had always loved cricket. The officials gifted the association 20 cricket balls specially made for the blind and bats before leaving.

Ghimire realized that cricket would be an excellent way to empower the blind.

Then started the cricket sessions at Bhrikutimandap that Ghimire organized every Saturday.

“To lure reluctant volunteers, I offered them free snacks and one hundred rupees to the winning team every weekend,” said Ghimire.

In late 2006, Ghimire was invited to attend the 3rd Blind Cricket World Cup in Pakistan, during which he learned the nitty-gritty of blind cricket.

And in early 2007, he organized and participated in Nepal´s first National Blind Cricket Tournament held on the premises of Pulchowk Engineering Campus in which three teams participated.

By today, the country already has eight blind cricket teams, of which three are all-women´s teams. And Nepal´s national blind cricket team is ranked ninth among 13 national teams in the world, giving the Nepali team a good chance of making it to the fourth Blind Cricket World Cup scheduled to be held in London in 2011.

Ghimire, who divides his time between CAB and Tribhuvan Army Club where he is posted, believes physical disability is not an end to meaningful life.

“It just transforms you to another level of existence,” he said. In his spare time, Ghimire loves to use his computer where he has installed audio software to assist him. He is assisted in using his cell phone by similar software.

Ghimire has learnt to handle every other day-to-day activity without vision, but transportation continues to be a problem. But Nepal Army has provided him a soldier to assist him.

Ghimire, who is looking forward to setting up a talking e-library for the blind and starting wheelchair cricket in Nepal, said, “I am not the average whiner who is never content with life. I have a purpose: empowering blind people. I will keep working for them. I am so content that loss of sight no longer matters.”

Source:REPUBLICA

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