MIN RATNA BAJRACHARYA
Historically, there has been no way for visually impaired Nepalis to broaden their horizons. There was simply no reading material available in Braille.
There was little hope for them to keep abreast of contemporary literature, let alone aspire to emulate such luminaries as John Milton, author of 'On his blindness' and Helen Keller, who penned 'The story of my life'. Now, there may be some amongst the 30,000 visually impaired people in Nepal who can dream of following in their footsteps.
A Braille library has been set up in Thapathali by the Nepal Association for the Welfare of the Blind, Rotary Club Patan and Rose International. Sunita Thapa, coordinator of Nepal FM's Bela ko boli, says this has filled a void. A similar venture in Lalitpur's Thaiba failed, though the audio library opened in Baluwatar with the assistance of the Nepal Blind Support Assocation is still in operation.
But it's not just world literature that will be available to the visually impaired, in the form of over one thousand donated books soon to arrive from the US Library of Congress, and donations from US-based Seedlings Braille Books for Children. Nepali classics such as Naso, Munamadan, Basai, Rajeshwori, Junga, Khai-khai, Gauri and Sirish ko phool are amongst the additions to the Thapathali library. Braille encyclopaedias, too, will help visitors advance their learning.
Govinda Prasad Acharya, lecturer at Ratna Rajya Laxmi Campus, points out that the Thapathali library will go a long way towards addressing the needs of visually impaired Nepalis. But he stresses the need for government to take the lead, given the costs involved in translating books into Braille, as well as the thick paper that is used to imprint Braille on.
Meanwhile, Rajan Raut of the Nepal Association for the Welfare of the Blind and Rotary Kasthamandap promises that Braille books will be taken on a tour to major cities such as Pokhara and Dharan. The light of learning may soon be seen by those who cannot see the light of day.
Houses of suffering, not learning, KRISHNA ADHIKARI