It was hard for NAFISA BUHARIWALA to come to terms with her vision impairment, but her parents were an unending source of inspiration
The baby of the family, Nafisa Buhariwala received a lot of affection and love from her parents and siblings. Her parents realised something was wrong with her sight when she was four months old. They took her to Mumbai, and met with all the good ophthalmologists in the city. The doctors pronounced their verdict: she was born with Retinitis Pigmentosa, and nothing much could be done for the baby.
Ms. Buhariwala's parents were very aware of their vision for their daughter. "They laid emphasis on education as the foundation for a fulfilling life, and gave their children the freedom to pursue their dreams," she says.
However, while she was growing up, it was hard for Ms. Buhariwala herself to come to terms with her vision impairment. "I was very touchy about it and I became very emotional whenever anyone asked me about it or talked about it. It is only after I became more mature that I came to terms with it and accepted it as fact of life."
She attended Taheri High School; her favourite subjects were Science and Higher Maths. "My ambition was to become a doctor, till I realised that I would not be able to do so because of my disability."
She had about 40 to 50 per cent vision during her school days, and hence could read and write in bright daylight. "I always sat at the first desk next to a window. I could not see the blackboard, however, and my friends read to me whatever was written on the board and dictated the notes to me," she reveals. "I borrowed my friends’ books and completed the notes that I could not in school."
Her school's teachers and principal were also cooperative. Kids, sometimes, are not always friendly and caring; as one grows older, one understands each other’s situations better. In the higher classes, friends and other students were helpful not only regarding studies but saw to her needs when they went out on picnics or school trips. "They tried including me in the games they played but often I realised that I was, in fact, spoiling their game, and shied away."
Ms. Buhariwala feels her college, St. Xavier’s in Mumbai, is a good place for students with vision impairment. The Social Service League of the college and students are very helpful.
After finishing college, Ms. Buhariwala joined the ranks of young men and women seeking employment. She joined the banking sector as a Manager in the Corporate Finance Branch, as a Corporate Forex Dealer, in the Central Bank of India. "I was responsible for buying and selling foreign currencies both in ready and forward on behalf of my corporate clients. I also advised them on movements of currencies and when to hedge their exposures. I was also responsible for the submission R-returns, a fortnightly statement of all purchases and sales of foreign currencies done by the branch, to the Reserve Bank of India.” Currently, she works as a Senior Manager, and handles Human Resource and Training. "I liaise with our three training colleges and nine training centres and also with outside agencies such as Bankers’ Training College, National Institute of Bank Management and so on. I also handle Human Resource statements." In addition, she also delivers lectures on Foreign Exchange in a college in Mumbai.
Foreign exchange, though a very interesting and challenging field, is a very sensitive area of banking. Ms. Buhariwala is always on her toes as the markets are very volatile – it would cost the bank a lot of money if she made a mistake and the market moved against the bank! With all its stresses, she loves her job. "They say, 'Once a Forex person, always a Forex person'," she smiles.
She does know Braille, but learnt it late in life, in 1992, during rehabilitation training in the U.S.A. in 1992.
She feels she has been very lucky with people in my life. "Starting from my family, my husband and his family, teachers, professors, friends at school and college and superiors, collegues and juniors at work have all been very nice people," she emphasises. At work, she tries to build a good rapport with her juniors; never be their boss but their friend and help everyone to work as a team. "My superiors and colleagues till now have also been very supportive." Some are not always aware of the needs of visually disabled people but she has been able to sensitise most of them through close interaction and by telling them what special requirements could exist.
Regarding systems that she uses in her work: "The biggest asset I have is a good memory with numbers… God’s gift and partly consciously developed by me. I use a talking calculator, talking computer and Braille labelling on all my files."
Listening to music, reading and Ham Radio are her hobbies.
She has a forceful message for blind and visually impaired people: "Do not lose heart. Decide what you want to do in life and work towards it. No one is going to do anything for you. It is you yourself would have to do whatever is necessary. Prepare yourself for the job you are planning to do and be ready with answers for any doubts people might have." To others, she would like to say that they should not doubt the capabilities of persons with visual impairment, or any disability, for that matter. "Give them a chance to prove their abilities and, I assure you, you will be in for a surprise."