Today is white cane day – a day set aside to celebrate the achievements of people who are blind or visually impaired and to acknowledge the white cane that important symbol signifying the independence of the blind.
I write this article as a tribute to my former teacher Dr. Riju Simon who is a beacon of light to his students even though he himself is ‘light denied.’ He taught me sixteen years back when I was a graduate pursuing Political Science at Government College, Kottayam. Impeccably dressed and with a pleasant expression on his face, this handsome teacher never failed to keep his students focused on his lectures and classes.
He was not overly strict but insistent that no student would laze or loiter in his class taking advantage of his blindness. Always having been a brilliant student despite his handicap, Riju Sir wanted every student to make use of the opportunities before him. Clarity was the hall mark of his lectures and notes and were designed to make even the least intelligent of his students to have full involvement in the class. He himself had won ranks at the university level for both his B.A and M.A exams and had cleared the National Eligibility Test in the first attempt itself. Nobody knows as well as he knows, that through confidence in oneself and sheer hard work one can transform difficulties into possibilities.
Recently he was awarded his doctorate and I had called to congratulate him on his success. He recognized me from my voice and said had been expecting my call. He is a person who has great belief in relationships. The way he connects with his students even years after their leaving the campus is proof of this. As for me, even now, before taking an important decision I talk with him and after patient listening and much consideration of the matter he will come out with his idea or suggestion.
He had been like any other child until that fateful day of 17th December 1983. Recovering from a bout of fever, he had been at home for a few days. Then, one morning as he stood all ready to go to school he felt he was seeing everything double. His mother thought he was pulling a trick to avoid going to school.
But when she made him read from a book she knew something was wrong. No time was wasted. His parents rushed him to M.G.M Eye hospital, Kangazha and from there to Angamaly, where they were told that surgery had to be done immediately. At Shankara Nethralaya in Madras, three surgeries were done immediately and normal sight was regained. But Dr. Badrinath who did the surgeries recommended one more inorder to insert a plastic buckle into the retina to prevent retina detachment which might undo the effect of the surgeries already done. Unfortunately, the inserted plastic buckle caused an infection and led to the complete loss of eyesight.
Back home, the hapless boy groped around in the darkness but the support and encouragement extended by his parents and elder brothers helped him to come out of the gloom. Everyday was a fight but he emerged victorious. The appeal he made to Nayanar led Left government after passing out from st. Thomas College, Pala with second rank for his MA exam, did not go unheeded. The Chief Minister took interest and he was posted in a Government College in Kozhikode from where he was transferred to the college in his hometown, Kottayam, upon another request. He talks fondly of the invitation he had received from the C.M to visit Cliff House and his meeting with E K Nayanar and his wife Sarada teacher. The value he gives to relationships is evident from the fact that he keeps in contact with Sarada teacher even now.
An erudite scholar, his contributions to the academic field is remarkable. Apart from bringing out a few books on political science, he keeps contributing articles to national and international magazines. It is his dream to make substantial contributions to the academic and administrative fields.
His decision to do research on F.I.P is another instance of his making over a difficulty into an opportunity. His wife was recovering from a serious illness and have to had somebody by her side constantly in those days. It was his colleagues who suggested applying for F.I.P. His colleague Prof. Chandran Komath greatly helped in matters relating to his research and his research guide Dr. Stany Thomas too was very empathetic. P S Rahul, a former student of Govt. College Kottayam played a big role in his research and he acknowledges it with great love and gratitude.
My teacher has proved through his life the words of Helen Keller, ‘Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.’ He is determined not to let his talents lodge useless’ with him.
I am sure, Dr. Riju Simon, along with his wife and two children will continue to walk with steady steps, never losing his composure, his faith in God and His goodness unwavering.
Anoop K M