Seven-year-old Imraj Sheikh affirms that he loves to study with a nod and a shy smile. “He even teaches the alphabets to his younger sister,” shares his mother Ashiya Sheikh proudly with a smile. She once hit her son for not being able to keep up with what was being taught in school and has been repentant about it since then. “He could not answer anything. He could not even tell me ABCD. I hit him. I didn’t know then that he couldn’t recognise the alphabets because of his eye problem,” she shares with remorse.
Imraj was born premature. He fell ill within a month. When he was six months old, he fell ill again. This time, his eyes turned red. She and her husband who makes furniture, residents of Basanti in South 24 Parganas, took him to many doctors within the district and also in Kolkata. However, he continued to have problems with his vision and his eyes would often water. Then in 2016, Ashiya noticed that he would often rub his eyes. After being scolded by his mother, Imraj had told her that the alphabets and numbers written on the board in school appeared hazy to him. Ashiya again did the rounds to various clinics and hospitals. Eye drops were prescribed. But there were no signs of improvement. Then, a couple of doctors told her that Imraj had cataract in both his eyes and needed surgery. Ashiya did not know what to do.
Meanwhile, her sister in law had attended an eye health camp organised with support from Sightsavers. She had also undergone a cataract surgery at the hospital managed under the project. She told Ashiya to contact the project personnel. Ashiya first took Imraj to a local eye health camp, where he was referred to the Vision Centre. The Vision Technician examined Imraj and found that he had severe allergies as well as cataract in both his eyes. While eye drops were provided for temporary relief, he also stressed that cataract surgery was needed. This was confirmed at the hospital. The positive feedback provided by her sister-in-law helped Ashiya and her husband in making up their minds regarding the surgery. Ashiya’s mother stepped in to help. She stayed with Imraj in the hospital while the couple came back home after the surgery. “I had to come back for my younger daughter,” she explains. Her husband and she were still slightly apprehensive about the surgery. “We didn’t eat properly for three days,” she recounts. Imraj’s left eye was operated upon in January 2017. He was also given spectacles for regular use.
The improved sight in the left eye has certainly helped. “Earlier, he used to stumble and fall a lot. Now, that does not happen. He can also read much better than before,” shares Ashiya. Ashiya wants to get the surgery in the right eye done soon and is waiting for an eye allergy to subside. “We can see the light of the world with our eyes. His eyes have to be ok for him to see and to move ahead in life,” she affirms.