Happy to be Blind!

If somebody says, “I am happy to be blind”, how would you react? If somebody says, “You wouldn’t have been talking to me, if I was not blind”, what would be your answer?

It is very tough to find a suitable answer to these lines. Thankfully, you rarely come across such questions if you write on sports. But sometimes you do. And that’s exactly when you’re stumped. You run out of ideas, as goosebumps start appearing on your skin. Mind you, this is a sports column and we’re talking about a sportsperson.

In 2003, an army lieutenant was trapped in an ambush, while patrolling the Kalikot-Jumla road. He survived, but lost his eyesight. Mind you, the country was facing an armed conflict then. But the incident took place during announced ceasefire. The lieutenant was Pawan Ghimire. He thought the world had ended for him. He says, “I lived only because I wanted my mother to live. If anything happened to me, she would not have survived.”

Exactly a decade – almost to the day – since that incident, he received special award at the Pulsar Sports Award 2069, on behalf of his organization. His organization: Cricket Association of the Blind (CAB), Nepal. The reason for special award: the achievement of Nepali Blind Cricketers.

Pawan Ghimire batting in one of the matches during 2007. Image source: web
Pawan Ghimire batting in one of the matches during 2007. Image source: web

Blind cricket has come a long way, since it was invented in Melbourne, in 1922, by two blind factory workers who replaced the ball with a tin can with rocks inside. Yet, cricket for blind was almost unheard of in this part of the world, when Pawan lost his vision. Initially, he did not even think of playing cricket, despite having been keen observer of the game on TV back then. But a visit by Pakistani delegation in 2006 changed things, for him and Nepali cricket.

A Pakistani delegation, with a coach, trained 33 blind cricketers. The group left Nepal, leaving behind four cricket bats and 20 balls, plus a burning desire in Ghimire’s heart. These four bats and 20 balls gave him a reason to dream, again.

Half a dozen years since that training, Nepal became the only Non Test-playing nation to have played in Cricket World Cup for Blind, when it was hosted in India, last year. Half a dozen years since that training, Nepal boasts of at least 450 blind cricketers, registered at CAB. Half a dozen years since that training, Nepal has become the only country in the world so far, to have a blind women’s cricket team.

To top it all, Nepal has been shortlisted for Beyond Sport Awards 2013 for ‘Empowering Nepalese Blind Girls via Cricket’, which is to be distributed in Philadelphia, USA, this September. Beyond Sport is a global organization that promotes, develops and supports the use of sport to create positive social change across the world.

From now on, if somebody asks yours truly, “What kind of dreams do the blinds have?”, he would say, “Dreams with conviction”. For if you meet Pawan Ghimire, now the President of CAB, you cannot but remain unaffected. It is not easy for him to make cricketers out of people living with blindness. For we live in a society which hardly expects people living with disabilities to contribute to the society. “The blind are normally taken as people who can sing, talk or just listen to the radio all day long,” Ghimire tells you, “I want to change that.”

And change can be felt, when you learn that there is one particular woman playing cricket, after she was kept for 19 years behind closed doors, because she could not see. Even her next door neighbors were unaware of her existence. Now she plays, and feels like a human. It took a lot of effort from Pawan and Co. to convince her parents to let her do what she wanted.

When you tell him it was bad luck that he lost his vision during ceasefire period, he quickly adds, “Perhaps it was good luck. I may not have done as much, if I had my vision.” Of course, it is about perspective. Sometimes you wonder if the people who can see, had as much vision.

In his acceptance speech at the Pulsar Sports Award 2069, Pawan Ghimire said, “A soldier never quits.” Perhaps that explains why he says he is ‘Happy to be Blind’?

PS: This write-up appeared in yours truly’s weekly column in The Kathmandu Post – OFFSIDE – on 6th July, 2013.

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