Sumaiya Haque: A woman chasing dream with impaired vision
Sumaiya Haque is the burning example of how a person could overcome all physical and mental adversities to conquer the world. The nature doesn't give her the ability to see anything, but that nonetheless could stop her from achieving what she wants.
She is currently employed as a full time lecturer in the Department of English and Modern Languages at North South University. Attaining an academic position in one of the premier institutions of the country and most importantly, for a person without eyesight, reaching up to this level is obviously challenging.Consequently, one could easily imagine her struggles and the extent of obstacles that she encountered on her way.
Her story of achieving her goal is interesting and obviously encouraging. She is the person who should be the idol for all.
With never-say-die attitude, Sumaiya Haque conquered the fear and pursued her dreams.
Sumaiya's home district is in Cumilla but her childhood is spent at BUET Teachers campus because her father late Dr. Engr. Alamgir Mujibul Haque was a Professor of Civil Engineering Dept of BUET.
In an interview with the Daily Observer, MS. Sumaiya Haque talks about the various forms of discrimination she have experienced and how did she overcome the hindrances.
Ms. Haque said, "I am the only child of my Parents. When I was three my mother noted that I was not being able to see even very nearby toys. After some experiment, my parents came to a conclusion that I was facing problem to see. Hence,they brought me to the eye specialist for proper diagnosis. Dr. Modasser Ali, a renowned eye specialist discovered that I was suffering from a disease, Retinitis Pigmentosa with Macular Degeneration. For further confirmation and possible treatment if available, I wentabroad. At Chennai, India,I was examined by Dr S.S Badrinath, founder, SankaraNethralaya and a vitreo retinal surgeon, who confirmed that this disease has no cure as such and eventually one day it would result in complete blindness."
But her parents chose to hide this inevitable reality from her.
"My mother Mrs. Jahanara Haque was also a working lady. She graduated on Geography from Dhaka University and obtained Masters from BUET on Urban Planning. She worked as a consultant for various projects under UNDP, World Bank etc."
Her parents were her only friends during that period when she was fighting to see the beauty of the world. In every morning her mother dropped her at the bus stop nearby Satmasjid road in Dhanmondi for school Bus and her father picked up her from the bus stop after the school.
"From the childhood I had no friends.At school, my peers considered me as abnormal. In my neighbourhood, where I lived, I could not play with the children of my age because I could neither see the cricket ball nor the cork for playing batminton. I walked alone among bushes at the BUET campus,curiously anticipating to find out what is the color of Butterfly, feeling the size and petals of flowers and took care of new born kitties," she explained her childhood memory.
In a society where most of the people are restless, it was easily understood that her teachers and classmates won't be so co-operative. The teachers' thought was as if that as to why she is at school. She should be at home. They also thought she is unfit for study. But she forced them to change their mentality towards her and now those people are proud of her.
Sometimes they called my parents while they were busy in their work place.
"At times, my father helplessly said to my mother to stop my studies altogether. Whereas, my mother was adamant; she ensured that whatever happens I ought to carry on. She began to help me out with my courses, despite her hectic schedule."
At some point of her life, till 2007, she was able to see everything clearly specially in the early hours of morning from 5.30 AM t0 8.30 AM and so her mother chose that time to keep her occupied.
Although, being partially sighted, she somehow managed to take her AS (Advanced Subsidiary, first part of A-Level Examination) Butduring her A2 (Advanced Secondary, 2nd part of her A -level), she permanently lost her vision. One day, in an ill-fated morning, she discovered she was seeing everything white; the exercise book in which she had solved some mathematical problem, just the night before, appeared to be blank.However, when she touched it, she felt with her fingers that there was something written on it.
"Immediately, I ran to my mother's room but I could hear that she was busy talking to somebody over phone. Finally, when I said, Ma I am not being able to see anything, she seemed relaxed and simply replied that's alright.Since she was already prepared for that situation, it didn't make much impact on her."
"More then anything, at that time I was worried of losing a year of my study. I was very good at singing and I was fortunate to have professional artists as my tutor, therefore, everybody encouraged me to build a career in music. But my aim was to consider singing as part of extra caricular activity and subsequently, complete my studies properly just like anybody else."
Having observed her passion towards her studies, her mother started searching where individuals with visual impairment could pursue their education but during that period, there was no facilities as such.As I could no longer continue, my mother gave up her job and began assisting me with reading text books and other materials.
"However, my mother found an organization named Impact Foundation. The chairman of this organization,Mr. Monsur Ahmed Chowdhury, whowas also the former Chief Executive Officer of the National Foundation for the Development of Disabled Persons, introduced me with a teacher's trainer Ms. kazi Fahima who taught me braille and helped me to learn computer,using a screen reading software, called JAWS (Job Access With Speech) which facilitated my studies."
In 2008 she completed her A level and then went to complete B.A. (Hons) in English, BRAC University, in 2012 and M.A. in English, also from BRAC University, in 2014.
She then went to pursue higher studies in the University of Leeds, UK in September 2014 - August 2015, specializing in MA Postcolonial Literary and Cultural Studies. After that she returned to Bangladesh because she wanted to prove that she couldperform exactly like any other normal people.
"After that I joined as an ajunct faculty at BRAC University. Finding it to be a better offer, I joined North South University as a full time lecturer in the Department of English and Modern Languages, where I continue to teach till today."
However, she doesn't want to stop here as she plans to achieve her PHD in English literature with a bent in Disabilities Studies.
After achieving Doctoral Degree, she aims to carry on with her teaching profession and alongside form an organization for women with disability, specially those who are underprivilledged,with the aim to provide them the courage to step ahead with the rhythm of the world.
She doesn't want these women to undergo such barrier,particularly what she faced in her life.
"I want to form an organization for disable women and children. I think every woman who wants to chase their dream, should do it without any fear.
"Also, Self-love and self-acceptance will empower women to love themselves because we believe every soul is beautiful regardless of the colour and shape they are in."
And above all she suggests everyone to smile always because it can help one to be happy and would strieve one to continue with one's endeavour.