The Weekend Leader - Against odds

When the world turned black for her, her zeal compelled her to fight

Kamalika Sengupta   |   Kolkata


Vol 4 | Issue 39

At Savitri Girls College in Kolkata, Alifia Tundawala, Professor and acting Head of the Department of Political Science, is a much admired person. She is an inspiration to all; for the lady had made mincemeat of the challenges posed by her disability, and is a living testimony to the power of the human spirit.

Alifia was born with an eye condition, and had lost her vision gradually. When she was 2 years old, her parents shifted from Sidpur town in Gujarat to Kolkata hoping to give her better treatment. But doctors in Kolkata too gave up on her. Her condition was diagnosed as incurable.

Angel on earth: Alifia inspires all those who come in contact with her

When Alifia became aware of her condition, she didn’t wallow in self-pity and vowed to live life “fully.” With support from her family, she started living a normal life, even joining a mainstream school.

“We took it positively. I told myself what has happened has happened, I have to live life and strive for excellence in whatever I do,” says the 37-year-old, who faced every situation in life with a strong will and determination.

At Loreto school, where she studied, friends and teachers helped by reading out the lessons to her. Her mother was a pillar of support. She learned by memorizing what was read to her.

Alifia listened to the lectures and took notes. There were times when she had written exam papers not knowing there was no ink left in her pen. Her teachers corrected the papers by reading from the impressions left by the dry pen.

It is now her time to give back. Her lectures come from her heart and she connects deeply with her students, some of whom come from other departments just to listen to her.

“She can lift your spirits when you feel down,” says a student, listening to her lecture, which are usually interactive and lively.

Students are inspired seeing her confidence and attitude. “She is an example for all of us. We are inspired that if she could accomplish so much in life, why can’t we,” says Maya Tiwari, a student.

Aditi Mondol, Alifia’s colleague says “She is very talented and she can do many good things together. She can talk in many languages and she is a good orator too. She is popular with students for her inspiring words. We have never seen her lagging behind in any activity in the college.”

Manisha Chowdhury, another colleague, adds, “She is good natured and a sweet person, she never says no to anything. She always encourages us. I believe she has a third eye.”

The impact Alifia has had on her students is quite awesome. As a student, Anindita, says, “We have to fight and overcome whatever situation we face in life and not give up is what I have learned from Alifia madam.”

Alifia receiving her doctorate from Prof Suranjan Das, Vice Chancellor, Calcutta University

A post graduate in political science, Alifia finished her doctorate in 2011 on the topic, “Contemporary condition of Muslims in West Bengal.”

Alifia is also actively involved in social work. She is in charge of the NSS (National Service Scheme) in her college.

Alifia believes strongly that differently abled persons also should be given education in mainstream schools. “It would be an encouragement to all those who are abled but differently,” she says.

Her name means ‘angel’ and true to her name, Alifia has proved she is an angel on this earth, bringing cheer to everyone around her.

When the world turned black for her, her zeal compelled her to fight against all odds in life. Her sex, religion and disability were three factors working against her, but she fought brilliantly against all the odds and came out victorious.

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