Joychand Karmoker
30 November 2022
The unclimbable mountain
30 November 2022

“My mother was told to end my life when I was born. She didn’t. I went on to stand first in sports, and travel around the country to act on stage.”
Rabbi, former student of BRAC school

People in the neighbourhood would knock on our door and ask my mother to end my life when I was a child.

But my story isn’t a sad one. It shows all that is possible when people have opportunities.

I live in a little house in Kolatia with my parents and my older brother. It’s not very far from Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka.

I loved going to primary school, in a tin-shed single room painted red, with colourful paper wind chimes, made by us, dangling from the ceiling. It was a BRAC school, and just ten minutes from where I live.

My teacher, Jhorna apa, made sure we experienced a whole world of activities outside our books.

In class 3, I was asked to take part in a sports competition in Dhaka. I saw what the world looked like outside Kolatia, for the first time.

My heart was beating out of my chest as I stood in a row with 10 other participants. A race? Me? Yes, me. I’ve been running to school all my life! What’s another run?

“Ready, get set, GO!”

I was at the finish line in a second. Before the feeling of victory set in, I had won first place in the next three rounds in swimming and discus as well.

I worked hard in and out of school, and it landed me many opportunities. I achieved great results in my primary school certificate exams in class 5.

Then I faced a bump in the road.

School up until then had been free, and we could not afford the tuition needed for me to continue into secondary school.

This is when an apa (sister) from BRAC lent me a helping hand, buying me three baby goats.

The momentum was regained. I could pay for my education, and, after a while, the family expenses. Not having to carry the weight of worrying about every taka was a huge relief.

When I was in class 10, I got a call to be on stage.

There I was. Dressed in a blue satin shirt playing Romeo in front of a packed auditorium of very influential people. I had never acted before, but I was starring in one of the world’s greatest plays. It was called A Different Romeo and Juliet. As the name implied, it’s a different sort of a play. It was created to be inclusive of all kinds of audiences – people who couldn’t hear, couldn’t see, couldn’t talk. It was also played by people who either couldn’t talk, hear, see, or walk. There were two sets of the same role, shadowing one another with intuitive sign language so that everyone in the audience could experience what was happening on stage, and we could communicate between each other.

We got a standing ovation. I remember seeing my teachers from school shed tears because they were so proud.

You might be wondering what I was doing as a member of this lovely cast.

I live with a disability. I have been running all my life, but only with one leg. I use a long stick to travel with. It’s what I’m most comfortable with when I don’t have to carry much with my hands. I also have a prosthetic leg if I need to keep my hands free.

I was studying in Kolatia University and acting as a regular cast member for the DARE project. DARE is a project by the British Council and Dhaka Theatre to help people with disabilities explore art.

I like to say whatever is on my mind. One day, I started a lecture about how every workplace should hire more people with disabilities, and especially the DARE Project. Just like that, talking too much landed me a permanent job as an inventory manager.

I’m about to give my final year exams at university. Not everyone has been lucky like me. Some people with disabilities have their life ended, some end up begging on the street. An opportunity, a little space for growth, and of course relentless dreaming – and I think anyone would be able to craft a life they would not want to escape from.

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