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The Girl Called “Blind Pigeon”: Her Story

November 27, 2010

Kabutar when she first met Mirjam. photo credit: Mirjam Letsch ©. All Rights Reserved.

by Mirjam Letsch

I have known Kabutar  for many years. When I met her the first time, she was introduced to me as Andhi Kabutar, “blind pigeon”. At the time, I had no idea that Anita was her real name, and that ‘Kabutar’ (Pigeon) was a nickname. Anita didn’t go to school because she was blind.  Instead she stayed home and helped her mother who was also almost blind. Together, they squatted in their little hut, cutting vegetables by touch and feel. The family is extremely poor. Finding employment in India when you are almost blind is near impossible. So they lived on the irregular earnings of the father, who by then was an old man.

In 2003 my NGO, the Duniya Foundation took Kabutar and many other people from that neighborhood, who were poor and had eye-problems that they could not afford to get medical help for, to a well-known eye-specialist in town. He offered his help at a reduced rate, and operated on many of people who were suffering from cataract. Unfortunately, he could not help Kabutar. Her eyes were too damaged and her constitution was too weak.  He suggested that she be given healthy food and extra vitamines, to at least improve her general health.

Two years later, in 2005, Kabutar’s parents married her of to a handicapped man she had never seen before.  They explained to me that by choosing a handicapped husband for their now almost blind daughter, they were entitled to a sum of Rs. 20.000 (now € 325) from the government. I don’t know if they ever received that amount. I was invited to the wedding party, where Kabutar and her parents looked sad all afternoon, where the local women got drunk on illegally brewed liquor and the town hijras (eunuchs) laughed , danced and provoked people.

After the wedding I did not see Kabutar for some time.  When I asked her parents, they said she was ‘fine’ and ‘healthy’. Several women told me they had seen her pregnant. And then, one day, she returned to her parents’ house.  I saw her sitting close to her mother,  and as before, cutting vegetables by touch.  There was no husband.   And no child.  They avoided answering any of my questions. The family was very worried, because Kabutar’s mother by now was almost totally blind, and the father was too old so no one would hire him for casual labor.  The family had no income.

The Duniya Foundation then decided to offer Kabutar a job. She was hired to help our cook Anju, who daily prepares hot meals for the 85 students of our school. It was the first time that I have seen Kabutar smiling.  She was proud that she was earning an income and seemed very happy to be among our friendly staff and children. However, Kabutar’s eyesight was so bad, that the cook Anju feared there would be accidents in the kitchen.   And so we all had a meeting to decide on a solution. We decided that Kabutar would be sent to an institution for the blind.

Kabutar at her new school. photo credit: © Nisha Gupta (Duniya Foundation). All Rights Reserved

Kabutar is now a proud student in an institute for blind children. For the time being, she is on trial for six months. If she can do well,  then she can continue her studies there.  Also for these six months we continue to pay her an income, a sort of  a”paid leave”, so that that her family has some money coming  in.

Kabutar will first learn Braille and then hopefully other subjects, before she gets skills training for some profession. We at the Duniya Foundation will continue to support her.  Her future will be a difficult one, but it seems she will manage.

Kabutar had come home for the Durga Pooja holidays.  She told the Duniya Foundation’s social worker,  Nisha,  that she found her old neighbourhood ‘smelly’, and that she desperately wanted to return to school .  She longed for the clean environment of her school and her new friends.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mirjam Letsch is an award winning photographer and co-founder of The Duniya Foundation.  She is also a member of The 50 Million Missing Photographers group supported by more than 2300 photographers from around the world.  To know more about her visit her website at www.mirjamletsch.com

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. November 28, 2010 9:27 am

    Thanks for publishing my story about Kabutar. She will be proud when we tell her!

  2. Alya Amina permalink
    November 14, 2012 3:24 pm

    May God bless you

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