A blind man who knows how to see

[ Chukhu Indu ]

“Nothing is fixed in the universe, not even the fundamental particles that are the building blocks of all physical existence; neither the functions and structures of our brain, nor the world around us. This includes our identities and capacities. They are not immutably fixed. Today, I no longer have to subscribe to the belief in the inherent incapacity of the blind, and I no longer have to unquestioningly embody the immobile disabled blind identity that I abhor.

“Believe me, what a relief that is!” says independent researcher Thomas Tajo, who is currently the president of an international non-profit, Vision Inclusive.

Born in Chayang Tajo in East Kameng district, Tajo currently lives in Belgium.

The following are excerpts from an interaction between The Arunachal Times staff reporter Chukhu Indu and Tajo.

Chukhu Indu: Tell us about your childhood?

Thomas Tajo: Well, I was born in a remote village called Chayang Tajo and my biological parents are illiterate. It was in the early ’90s that a Catholic missionary, Prem bhai, came to my village and later made arrangements for me to study in a boarding school.

I was about 14 to 15 years of age that time. I became blind when I was 8 or 9 years of age.

CI: Tell us about your schooling days and your higher studies?

TT: I did my basic schooling from Shillong in Meghalaya, and later earned a bachelor’s degree by distance learning from New Delhi. After that, I was adopted by my current parent in Belgium.

CI: How was your life in India before moving overseas?

TT: I went into depression and music helped me so much in the process of recovery.

CI: Having two families from two different countries is wholesome, isn’t it?

TT: Yes it is. Here in Arunachal Pradesh, in the tribal culture, we have a deep clanism system, whereas in the West, we are only inclined to one’s family tree and not beyond that. I have been privileged to meet all the luxury that I can avail as a citizen of Belgium. However, it pains my heart to see that our state is still lagging far behind.

As per a 2011 report, the ratio of people with disabilities is 2:68 crore – more than the entire population of Australia.

Tajo emphasised on “the implementation side from the government, especially here in the state and in the country.”

He travels across the world, lecturing at various universities and scientific forums. He also teaches echolocation and mobility lessons during workshops organised for blind children and adults.

Tajo teaches in English, Hindi and Dutch.