Zarana Maheshwary was a two-year-old when she diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP)—a genetic disorder of the eyes which causes loss of vision, over a period of time. Her condition began to deteriorate when she was in Class 5, and she is currently completely blind.
However, she did not let the impairment come in the way of her dreams and received her PhD in English Literature in 2017. She was the second visually impaired woman in Gujarat to be awarded the degree.
Currently, she works as an Assistant Professor in the Center for Comparative Literature and Translation Studies at the Central University of Gujarat (CUG) and has been teaching academic writing to students pursuing their masters in English Literature, and comparative literature to students pursuing their MPhil, since the last five years. She uses a screen reader and text-to-speech converter to teach the students.
When asked how she felt when she first got to know that she was suffering from an incurable eye condition, she said, “When one sense of yours doesn’t respond, other senses are required to work harder as you have no option left.”
Zarana’s parents ensured that she had a normal upbringing. They enrolled her in a regular school and stood by her as pillars of support. Her mother used to read out lessons to her, while her friends would help her keep up with the rest of the class.
Zarana struggled with schoolwork—what other children could do in 2-3 hours, took her 7-8 hours—but she persisted, and secured and scored 85% in her Class 12 exams, and was ranked second in the arts stream, in Palanpur!
After that, there was no stopping her. She completed her BA degree, from Hemchandracharya North Gujarat University and secured a gold medal as well. She went on to acquire a Masters’ degree in English Learning Teaching and completed her MPhil from CUG.
However, this journey was definitely not smooth for her, and she has struggled a lot through every step. She faced a lot of discrimination in her school and college life, where people used to doubt her capabilities and interest towards accomplishing her goals, and constantly tried to pull her down. It was only her determination and willpower, and the support of her close ones that gave her a helping hand to fulfill her dreams.
Zarana wishes to see a world where people do not give respect to the differently abled just because of their condition, but because it is something they deserve.
(This article has been written by Rittika Bhattacharjee)