Independence from physical limitations

Report: Joydeep Das Gupta / Photo: Sounak Choudhury

For her the world may be dark, but her efforts to make everyone’s life more colorful and meaningful is what defines, Alefiya. She is an Inspiration for everyone who come across her, mainly her students and colleagues.

Meet Dr. Alefiya Tundawala, Professor of Political Science at Savitri Girls College in North Calcutta and a visiting Professor at  Calcutta University. What makes her different from other teachers is her ability to live life positively despite her disability. Born in Gujarat, from early days her parents observed Alefiya was attracted to light and could not react to hand movements before her eyes by others. She was taken to Mumbai, where it was diagnosed that she is suffering from Retinaitise Sigmentisa, a syndrome signifying complete darkness or blindness. Later on Alefiya along with her parents shifted to Kolkata, when she was 2 years of age.

Doctors in Kolkata could not treat her disease, and declared the condition incurable and she is blind for life. It was when she and her family deceided to accept the blindness and to live with it. Alefiya says, “When I was fully aware of my situation, I thought of living life fully, I was supported by my parents and extended family. We took it  positively in our stride and I decided what has happened has happened, I have to live life and prove my excellence even in this trying situation too.

This way she thought of changing everything around her with the will power. She studied in general mainstream school. She was not very comfortable with Braille system thus she started to depend on memorizing through hearing. She scored well in Class-10, Class-12 and also in Graduation. There were not enough books that she could consult, but still she firmly continued her fight. Today she is the Head of the Department of political science in Savitri Girls College and a great inspiration to her students and colleagues.

She is unstoppable says the Principal of the college Dr Amrita Dutta, who is always beside Alefiya in all her endeavors in the college, says “Alefiya is an inspiration for not just the students but also for every colleagues in the college and anyone who came across her, we are glad to have her in our college. She takes new initiative and implement them for the benefit of the students.

Her students say they feel motivated and inspired in the company of their beloved teacher, who makes them understand in the language they easily understand. Kanchan, a student of Savitri Girls College says “She is an example for all of us, her life teaches us that if without her eyes she can do so much out of her life, then why can’t we excel in our life with everything”.

Another student Khushboo, with teary eyes says, “whatever be the situation we should fight and not to withdraw is what I have learned from Alefiya Madam, who inspite of her blindness is a much more successful then any other successful person in our society. Whenever I feel tired and depressed I think of Madam, and feel encouraged to move on”.

Dr Alifia and students cleaning slums

Alifia is also actively involved in social work. She also is the in charge of the NSS (National Service Scheme) in her college. Presently the students along with the special teacher on cleanliness drive under Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and are cleaning nearby slums. Alefiya along with her 20 students are cleaning slums and hospitals and are making people aware about health hygiene and importance of cleanliness.

Whatever the life may have given her, but tirelessly she is giving her best to the life. Her sex, religion and disability were three factors working against her, but she fought brilliantly against all the odds, silently, sincerely and with firm determination she came out victorious. Alefiya says no one can stop you if you don’t want to stop; the only disability is our negative attitude towards life. If we can see the better side of life, negativity vanishes forever.