This story was originally reported and written in Hindi.

My dream is to become a radio jockey one day. 

My name is Bhagwan Singh Rawat and I was born with visual impairments. In my family, my mother and my two brothers are also visually impaired. My late father and my two sisters have normal sight. 

I am in my third year of graduate studies in a college in Udaipur, and am preparing for an exam to secure a government job in the railways. My father passed away suddenly after a snake bit him in the fields where he was working. It was his dream to see all his children educated.

Bhagwan explaining how he uses this board to memorise Braille letters. His mother, Rukma Devi is seated in the doorway. Photos by Pukhraj Salvi

I recognize the alphabets by touching the dots in the Braille book. I have a digitizer that was provided to me by the government that has a recording of all the books. I listen to it every day. I really enjoy studying. My parents have encouraged me to study from the beginning. I have also received a laptop from the government with the talk-back feature. Since I cannot afford internet charges required to study online, I use the talk-back feature. 

Listening to the recordings of books helps me prepare for my exams. I have to take a writer with me for my exams as I need someone to write down everything I narrate. But they charge up to Rs. 200-300 for an exam and I don’t have such funds. Sometimes when I don’t have a good writer it affects my performance in the subject.  

Next time I am planning to give the exam myself; I will try to write the paper. I can also teach others what I have learnt, even those with sight. I would have liked to do a teacher training course, but I didn’t have the money.

My elder brother, Bhur Singh, passed away in 2019. He was also preparing for the railway exam. He was diagnosed with tuberculosis, but it was too late for treatment and we did not have the money for it.

When I see our leaders celebrating Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, all I can think about is how nothing has changed for me. When my mother and I go to the store, we often cannot pay for what we purchase so the shopkeepers charge us interest. This is the only debt we have.

Both my mother and I get a pension of Rs. 1,000 each from the Social Security Pension scheme of the Rajasthan government. We also filled out the scholarship form through an eMitra nearby. We withdraw the money with the help of eMitra – it informs us about the amount with a text message and the talk-back feature on my phone reads out the message. I bought this phone for Rs. 7,000. My mama [mother’s brother], Lakshman Singh, and my elder sister gave me the money to buy this phone. 

I believe if someone’s sight is impaired they should study. I don’t have eyesight, but I do have a working mind.

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Editor's note

Pukhraj Salvi took part in a two-day PARI reporting workshop at the School for Democracy (SFD) in Bhim, Rajasthan. SFD was founded by members of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) and others. Pukhraj has been working there for two years.

He says, “I wanted to do this story to talk about how there are so many people in our society that want to achieve something and be successful, but do not have the means to do so.”