Society

This visually-challenged teacher from Kerala converts books into Braille

Baby Girija

Baby Girija   | Photo Credit: Harikumar J S

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For students at the Government School for the Visually Impaired in Thiruvananthapuram, Baby Girija is a leading light who endeavours to blot out the darkness of ignorance in their lives

High-school student Suraj Krishna cheerfully and meticulously spells out Braille codes for all the Malayalam characters he has learnt so far to his teacher Baby Girija. As he finishes his recital, the teacher gives him a warm pat on his back. “He joined us only three months ago. He’s a quick learner,” Baby says with a smile.

For students at the Government School for the Visually Impaired at Vazhuthacaud, Baby Girija is a leading light who endeavours to blot out the darkness of ignorance in their lives. For several years now, the visually-challenged teacher has been translating books into Braille to help the visually-challenged explore beautiful worlds within their pages.

“I joined this institution in 1993 as a Braille teacher. Back then, there was a paucity of books in Braille and it was also more difficult to convert books due to the laborious process involved. Today, a lot more are available in Braille though it’s still a small collection of works,” says the teacher who recently received a national award from the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.

Baby, who learnt to read the script at a school for visually challenged in Varkala, first started her Braille conversion to aid other teachers in the school in preparing lessons and setting question papers for exams. It was the school’s former headmaster, G Thulaseedharan, who exhorted her to try her hand at translation during free hours.

“Perhaps, the first book I took up for the work was Gracious Benjamin’s Karanamenth (What is the reason?), a collection of ‘tell me why’ questions and answers. Soon, I understood the potential of opening new worlds to the visually challenged,” says Baby, a native of Paravur in Kollam.

She continued the efforts and also credits the incumbent head master, Abdul Hakeem, for lending unstinted support in her effort. “At one point when I did not have readers for assistance, he put an ad in the newspapers to hire one,” recollects the 53-year-old who won a State award for her contributions in 2014.

Baby Girija with her students in the library

Baby Girija with her students in the library   | Photo Credit: Harikumar J S

Among the 60-odd books that have seen the light of day in Braille through Baby are Aithihyamala, The Bible, The Quran, Panchathanthram Kadhakal (Panchathantra Tales), Kuttikalude Mahabharatham (The Mahabharatha for Children), Abdul Kalam’s Wings of Fire: An Autobiography, Muttathu Varkey’s novel Oru Kudayum Kunju Pengalum apart from portions from the Indian Constitution.

“I mostly take up Malayalam works that I feel are must-reads though I also like to do English books. Sometimes, I choose books suggested by my readers or friends. Perhaps, the most challenging has been Bala Ramayanam (The Ramayana for Children),” explains Baby, adding that next up is Aesop’s Fables. Her books are spiral-bound and stocked in the school library where she spends most of her time outside class hours.

Baby, who stays at a hostel near Jagathy, says now she does not have a “designated” reader and relies upon “volunteers and well-wishers” to read out to her.

She refuses to part with an old Perkins Brailler that she keeps in the school library, always getting her work done on the machine she received over 20 years ago.

“Sometimes, the springs go haywire from use. I have to get them fixed once in a while. But it still works fine,” says the Braillist with a chuckle. She loves to listen to the radio, always making it a point to tune in to the station at 6 am on the dot without fail. “I can skip food for a day but I just can’t miss my morning bulletin,” she says.

Baby says she has a ‘vision’: to build a Braille library. “This is not just for the present generation but for posterity as well,” the teacher says. She believes that lack of sight should not stand in the path of insight.

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2020 2:37:38 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/meet-baby-girija-a-visually-challenged-teacher-from-kerala-who-has-become-a-leading-light-to-students-by-converting-books-into-braille/article30522403.ece

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