Sunday, July 22, 2012

Jhamak Ghimire - the Helen Keller from Dhankuta, Nepal

jhamak ghimire
Jhamak Ghimire, who has been honored with Madan Puraskar, Nepal's highest award in the literary field, was born in Dhankuta in 1980. Like Helen Keller, she suffers from cerebral palsy and just like most of the cerebral palsy patients turning out to be geniuses, she too has come a long way from a vegetable whose parents wished she were dead to one of the most esteemed writers in Nepali literature.

I wonder whether cerebral palsy blocks all physical activities and channels out creativity from the brains. Look at Stephen Hawking, a crippled man with no movements whatsoever, and he is considered as the greatest theoretical physicist alive. Helen Keller, on the other hand, has already carved her name in the history of the world.
Why compare Jhamak Ghimire with such world renowned people? 
There is a vast gap between their lives. For instance, Helen Keller was from a well off family and they could afford her a private tutor (Anne Sullivan), just as it was the same for Stephen Hawking and any other geniuses with cerebral palsy. Jhamak had none; she is from a poor family from a God-forsaken village in Dhankuta. Her parents were always against her wish to learn to read and write.


Jhamak learned to write with three toes of her left foot; they are the only organs under her full control. In her autobiography "Jivan Kada Ki Phool" ( Life is a Flower or a Thorn ) which has been recently translated into English as "a flower in the midst of thorns" she writes:  

"My younger sister used to pronounce vowel sounds with father, but I had no voice to utter those letters, although I had powers of hearing. As a result, I would silently and inwardly try to pronounce what I had heard and repeat them twice, thrice or more. He used to hold my younger sister’s hand and teach her how to write those letters, that is क  (ka), ख  (kha),ग  (ga), etc. On my part, I would collect the dew drops falling from the eaves of the roof in a crucible, crawl up to a little distance, dip my toes in that crucible and, with the dew, attempt to scribble some letters at random on a nearby rock stone. When there was no dew collected, I used to break little bamboo twig, make a ‘pencil’ out of that and try to scrawl letters, using the flat earth as my ‘exercise book’. As I would scrawl with dew-dipped foot-finger (toe) on a rock, the force of scrubbing would peel off my soft skin many times without number. But, nothing ever deterred me from learning . Whether my toes be bleeding or I mastered writing or not was immaterial to me. "

Her autobiography is a must read. It's not just a story of a disabled person, not an impossible book which someone has written holding a pen within her toes. It's the story of human patience and perseverance, it's about the poverty within Nepal that makes the parents wish that their offspring ( usually the ones who aren't productive) were dead. It's about winning and the happiness that showers with the fulfillment of wishes:

"I remember now that at the time I first learnt to write the letters of the alphabet, I could not share the joy with anyone. I had, nevertheless, mastered the art of scrawling letters even if it was on the bare earth and had learnt to pronounce them although only within my mind. The first day I had been able to scribble the first letter of the consonant क  (Ka), I had sprayed a cloud of dust in the air out of sheer happiness because I had broken innumerable twigs time and again in order to learn writing this letter and I bruised the tender skin rubbing against the soil. Moreover, my toes bled when I practiced  writing by dipping them on the dew drops collected on the bowl."

Leaving the comparisons aside, Jhamak Ghimire is the living embodiment of human will power and what can be achieved when we go for it. She is a miracle for all and an inspiration for the depressed. Look at many of us, we are all full bodied and half minded but yet lack the zeal to learn more and live more............................

It's time we learnt from this girl.
jhamak ghimire - Helen Keller from Dhankuta










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