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“I shave in front of a mirror although I can’t see it”

Gobinda Majumdar of Chhaygaon likes to walk to his favourite tea stall 4 km from home and buy sweets for his nieces on his way back. It’s nothing unusual, except that he happens to be deafblind and mute.

The 37-year-old from Kamrup district in Assam knows the geography of his village like the back of his hand — the hand he uses for tactile signing, his sole means of communication. Deaf from birth, he was two when he lost his eyesight from a Rubella infection, limiting his memory of the world to whatever he saw till that age. He was fortunate in that Sparsh, a unit of his school Shishu Sarothi in Guwahati, is the Deafblind regional resource centre for the north eastern states. His teacher Mehbubar Rahman was the interpreter for this interview.

Gobinda, the eldest of five siblings, is fiercely independent although he stays with his mother and married brother. His father, who died seven years ago, taught him all the agricultural work on the family’s two-acre farm. He harvests paddy and mustard and manages the cattle. Using raw material sourced from the farm he manufactures bamboo doors and makes jute rope and coconut leaf brooms that he sells in the market.

Gobinda keeps his room spick and span. “I keep my clothes locked in a suitcase so that my brother doesn’t take them!” He prefers vegetarian food because “chicken spoils my stomach”. Is there anything he is scared of? “Deep water.” He dislikes vehicles too, although he likes to ride pillion on Mehbubar’s scooter.

He has two questions for any new visitor. “What route did you take?” Because he knows the best and quickest one. And “Are you married?” He is eager to tie the knot. “My younger brother is married, so why not me?” he says. “If I had Rs 2 lakh I could open a shop selling puja items.” Mehbubar also feels that if Gobinda were financially secure, someone in the village might give their daughter in marriage to him.

When photographer Vicky Roy visited, Gobinda fingered the shape of his camera. Click! He snapped a picture. Lively, curious, resourceful — that’s Gobinda for you.


Vicky Roy