We generally look for the light at the end of the tunnel. On a dark road, at night, we follow the moonlight. Stars guide us home. Sunlight illuminates all that is dull, painting things in new colours, new shades every day. We get inspired when we see change.
But how many of us truly experience all of this, feeling, sensing, hearing, breathing. Have you ever touched change?
In Narangpur, the periphery of Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, lives a 25 year old visually impaired social worker, Usman Malik. Apart from social work, Usman is an important part of the Blind Cricket Team of Uttar Pradesh. Though he has never seen light, his smile brightens up the entire room. Living in a family of eight, Usman has started to treat and see every child as his sibling, and every elderly as his grandparent. “The world,” he says, “is one. Nobody can say that they own it. We belong to it, it doesn't belong to us.” With this humility, and in tie with compassionate communities, Usman has been helping anyone and everyone who comes his way.
And because he believes in ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ - the whole world is my family, Usman has been holding free-of-cost eye checkup camps for years now. He has helped over 500 people with eye surgeries and handicapped children get equipment. Moreover, he has helped get finance, pensions, ration and identity cards for over 750 people. Taking cognizance of how children could not afford their school fee, Usman liaised with local politicians to get their fees either waved off or paid.
The world is not all good. And Usman knows that. A bunch of individuals ran the ration mafia, causing unequal distribution, or none at all at times. “I don’t do wrong, neither can I let wrongdoers get away, no matter how powerful or threatening they may be.” Usman used the power of his words, his influence and the support he had of the entire community and law executioners to get such people behind bars. Money, fame, personal agendas do not hold any power over this man because all he wants to do is serve the society with honesty. Honesty is the virtue that he lives by. Usman has never walked away from a problem, neither will he ever.
“Even if I have to talk to a corrupt official, he will have to tell me how to solve a problem. If there is a building, it will have to have an entry point somewhere, it cannot be built without one.”
He felt his immediate environment and the customs followed were steeped in unethical practices. When Usman was made aware that child marriage and child labour were still prevalent practices, he said, “If someone’s childhood is slipping away from them, we must move fast to catch it.” Usman then took help of social workers and the police officers to bring an expeditious stop to such practices.
Society has painted a picture of an able person as a normative ‘normal’. Anything short of its considerations are thought to be weak. But Usman says, “Kamzor toh woh ho jiski soch kamzor ho.” Weak is the person whose mind is weak. For him, the only organs indeed required for a person to function is his/her mind and heart. As long as your heart is in the right place, you are as powerful as the strongest person.
Over 18 million people in India suffer from visual impairment. While they share the pain, the hounding class divide among the suffering seems to be expanding. In such times, fighters like Usman come in like heroes without capes to bridge the inequalities.
When we ask Usman about what inspires him, his reply makes us smile almost as wide as he does. “If there are people like the Nobel Peace Laureate Kailash Satyarthi who are fighting for people like us, we must also fight for ourselves- that is the only way we can progress. We must stand together. We must see ourselves as social reformers” Concluding his conversation, Usman shares a story of Mr. Ambedkar and his friend, leaving us with an exhilarating message. He says that when we stand tall with someone noble, we become nobler.
Our perceptions changed, our hearts warmed, we bid goodbye to Usman even as he invited us to watch his next cricket match in which he was planning to hit consecutive boundaries. Usman might have never seen light, but he has lit up innumerable lives.