Wednesday 6 January 2016

On a Digha trek with the help of inner eye

Bronze and Silver Award participants from Ramakrishna Mission Blind Boys' Academy, Narendrapur did coastal trekking for their Adventurous Journey from 9th to 11th December 2015.  Joydeep Thakur published their journey in Hindustan Times (Kolkata Edition) on 22 December 2015. Read the full story here.

Holding each other's hands they trekked for three days along the beach covering more than 60 km from Chandipur to Talsari and ultimately reached Digha. They could feel the wet sand under their feet, hear the waves breaking at a distance, feel the cool breeze gently sweeping their face, smell the sea and even touch the water bending down a little. Yet they couldn't see the sea. They are the students of the Ramakrishna Mission Blind Boys' Academy in Narendrapur (in picture).

"It was a wonderful learning experience and fun for us. We were out of the hostel's comfort and had to walk for nearly 20 km on an average every day for three days, cook our own food, sleep in tents and cross rivers sometimes on foot and sometimes on boats. But yet we never got tired and spent the evenings singing the latest Bollywood songs, danced and recited poems at the end of the day. The trip taught us many things," said Subhankar Bhunia, a student of class eight who is totally blind.

A team of 25 students, including 12 students who are blind in both eyes, from the academy -- all aged between 14 and 20 years -- went for a coastal trek on December 8. They were escorted by two teachers from the academy and around nine experienced trekkers from the Institute of Climbers and Nature Lovers.

"The team first reached Chandipur from where the trek started in the morning of December 8. On the first day they trekked for 17 km, crossed two rivers -- Buri Balam and Kasai -- and pitched their tents on the banks of Kasai River at a place named Kasafal. The second halt Dogara was around 22 km from Kasafal. At Dogara the tents were pitched on a highland covered with Casuarina trees. They reached Talsari on the third day after crossing the Subarnarekha River and trekking for nearly 23 km. From Talsari they reached Digha on motorised van-rickshaws," said Biswajit Ghosh, principal of the academy.

Ghosh pointed out that a normal youth won't feel the pain and tiredness while walking for 20 km on the beach as he would divert his mind by seeing the beauty of the sea and other things. But a blind boy who can't see anything would feel the tiredness as he has to concentrate on the trek alone.

"Despite all these difficulties and their challenges they did it," he added.

Each and every one had a responsibility on the trip. While those who were totally blind were given jobs such as washing vegetable, taking off the shells of boiled eggs and peeling boiled potatoes, those who could partially see were asked to fetch water and light a stove. Food was simple with rice, dal, egg curry for dinner and either chapatti or toast for breakfast.

"But it was a real thrill. We learnt how to pitch tents, slept on polythene sheets, eat freshly prepared self-cooked food. We collected shells from the beach and brought them back as mementoes. None of us complained of any difficulties and none fell sick. We enjoyed it to the hilt," said Tahasimul Rine, student class XI who has lost vision in both eyes.

On the way the students learnt a lot about life on the beach. They interacted with fishermen, saw how the fisher folk wove fishing nets, came to know many new things about tides, learnt about trees found on the coasts such as Casuarinas and marine animals among others.

"Through this costal trek they could judge their capacity and develop self confidence. They learnt about team work and how to care for each other when out of their comfort zone. Above all they learnt how to keep on going when things get tough because walking for 62 km on sand is not at all an easy task," said Chandan Majumder, placement officer of the academy who escorted the students on the trip.  

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