My Ears Are My Eyes, Says Visually-Impaired Journalist From Odisha

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Bhubaneswar: He has lost complete vision in both eyes, but that hasn’t deterred Sarbeswar Bardhan from his professional pursuits of going to the field to collect and report news and even investigative stories.

Working as a reporter for Odia tabloid ‘Nirbhaya’, 54-year-old Bardhan is probably the only government-accredited journalist with visual impairment in Odisha. He lost his eyesight after a road accident at Mendhasal near Bhubaneswar in 1993.

Recalling the incident, he said the two-wheeler he was driving suddenly got locked. “It was as if I was destined to fall and lose my eyesight. Initially, one eye was completely damaged and the other was partially impaired. But gradually I lost complete sight in the second one as well,” he said

“I come from a humble background. Maybe I could have saved my second eye if I could have afforded treatment. I knocked on every door and went to different hospitals, including some in New Delhi and Chandigarh. But to no avail,” he added.

Back then, he used to work for a small Odia daily. When that publication ran into rough weather, Bardhan faced tough times, professionally and financially. But his dogged determination and perseverance ensured his continuance as a working journalist and he remained associated with different news organizations till he got a decent offer from Odia news tabloid Nirbhaya.

Bardhan, who now lives in a government quarter allotted to him at Unit VI here in 2014, used to travel to and fro daily for nearly two decades from his village to the state secretariat to pursue his passion and profession.

“I am grateful to all those who would pick me up from my place in the morning and drop me back home in the evening. There were days when I couldn’t make and was helplessly stuck at home. But I never gave up; I couldn’t have afforded to. I had to take care of my wife and two children. I would gather information over the telephone and dictate my news reports to the desk people in my office,” he recalled.

However, this committed journalist is loath to call himself a ‘Person with Disability’ (PwD) or claim any privilege. “Yes, I have lost complete vision, but I have neither sought a disability certificate nor any government benefit meant for PwDs. I am a working journalist, earning my bread, running my family and educating my children. So, who says I am disabled,” he asked.

Bardhan said his disability has never hindered him from his professional commitments. “Now, my ears are my eyes. I can remember many things just by listening,” he added.

On the eve of the ‘International Day for Persons with Disabilities’ celebrated every year on December 3, this visually-impaired journalist sent out a message of encouragement to all PwDs. “Disability can’t stop determined and capable persons at all. One must keep faith on oneself and utilize the inner potential to disapprove disability,” he said.

“I am not one to give up. I will continue to work for as long as I can. I will breathe easy the day my kids get well settled,” he concluded with a charming smile, a reflection of hope and grit despite difficulties.

The ‘International Day of Persons with Disabilities’ (IDPWD) is an international observance on December 3 promoted by the United Nations since 1992. The observance of the Day aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities. It also seeks to increase awareness of gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.

The theme of IDPWD, 2019 is “Promoting the participation of persons with disabilities and their leadership: taking action on the 2030 Development Agenda”. According to the UN, the theme focuses on the empowerment of persons with disabilities for inclusive, equitable and sustainable development.

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