Meeting and knowing Bilkis Siamwala
Inspiration can come from anywhere, just like the rays of sunshine can come from a tiny hole in the darkest of places. Meeting Bilkis Aunty was like a ray of sunshine as she inspired me in so many ways just by being herself.
When I first met her, we were sitting next to each other, and I didn’t know how I could converse with her. Without thinking much, I introduced myself, and then we couldn’t stop talking. I was a bit judgemental at first but I was proved completely wrong.
Introducing Bilkis Siamwala
Born in Sidhpur, Gujarat – Bilkis Siamwala currently has been living in Chennai for a long time. As mentioned above, after meeting her I was highly inspired as to how one can be grateful and contented even in tough situations. Every time I meet her she is smiling and remembers each and everything. When I say each and everything I mean it. She believes she is God-gifted and is quite a humorous person. She also states jokingly that being blind has also fetched her some perks. Like having no issues when there is no power, everything is the same for her except it’s hot. While I was interviewing her she mentioned that the TV’s display in her room was off and not working but the audio was perfect, how it caused an issue to others but barely made any difference for her.
Upon seeing her zest to learn and her optimistic approach is what led me to share her story here so that – we get inspired and our approach towards life changes. Read on to hear her story –
Q. While growing up, what were the obstacles you faced individually and how did you overcome those?
A. Obstacles are a part of everyone’s life – I had a fair share of mine. I was born blind, so it was next to impossible to get myself treated. We went to a lot of doctors but it was a lost cause. We accepted my fate. Initially, I was put in a normal school but obviously, I wasn’t able to cope up there but then I joined a school for the blind and it was the best thing for me. Yes, there were many obstacles, as a kid, I needed attention all the time and could not be left alone. I am dependent on people but someone told me something very wise. Blind or not every human being is dependent – no one is completely independent.
Q. How did you manage with your studies?
A. A whole lot of credit goes to the inventor of Braille who made learning and education for people like us possible.
I love two things learning and traveling. I can never say no to any one of these things. My love for learning made it easy for me to study, so it was never a problem. Science was my favorite subject. Learning new languages was also my favorite. I can speak Tamil, English, Gujarati fluently. I can read Arabic and wish to learn so many languages if I get the opportunity. The one subject that I detested was ‘Math’ and in that ‘Algebra’.
Q. At any point in your life, have you ever felt that you were less fortunate and that life is unfair for you?
A. Yes, I definitely have felt that a lot of time. Especially after my mom passed away, it was a bit difficult for me. I can’t say that life is unfair to me, because there are so many things that I am grateful for. People are quite surprised that I can speak so many languages fluently, read the Quran and even memorize it. I can write in Braille and do so much more. I have friends in London, so many here in Chennai that I am thankful for.
Just like I mentioned earlier that I like to believe that I am God – gifted as Tamil and Arabic was never taught to me, I learnt it by myself miraculously.
Q. How do you manage with your daily activities?
A. Everything by myself, be it bathing, dressing up, keeping my clothes, switching on the tv…. the list goes on. I even travel by myself. I’ve traveled to Banglore, Secundrabad by myself on a train. Somebody drops and picks me at the station. People are very kind, you know. In the train, people take so much care of me. If I call the coffee guy, he hands me the coffee but when I am about to pay him he tells me that someone has already paid for me. When they say there are no good people in this world, I really disagree.
Q. Did you have any goals in life or still have any goals or wishes that you want to fulfill?
A. Yes, quite a few. Some I have done and some I am still pursuing. I loved collecting coins and did that for a long time but I have left that now. I have a lot of photos in my collection that I like to treasure. There are quite a few goals that I still want to accomplish like learning how to use the computer, learning more foreign languages.
Q. You have lived 70 years of your life with various ups and downs, is there anything you would like to tell today’s generation?
A. I don’t know much about today’s generation but I can say one thing –
“Never Give Up! – If you have the desire in you, your ‘will’ will automatically find its way!”
To achieve something in life you have to do all the hard work by yourself. No one else will do it for you. If you think it’s impossible, remove the word ‘impossible’ from your dictionary. As we all know ‘God helps those who help themselves’.
Q. A famous question asked to Helen Keller – ‘What would you do if you were given your eyesight for a day?’ – I am asking you the same question, tell us your answer.
A. Just for one day?? That’s too less! I am very greedy you see. The list to do will be so long and the time so less. First I will start with seeing myself in the mirror and my close family and friends. Seeing the most basic things like the house I live in, and everything around me. With limited time I will rush to see the beach which has been my favorite spot. Usually, I am just able to feel the waves crashing this time I will be able to see to it. Talking about itself only makes me feel so excited.
Almost a quarter of my day will go in this. With the remaining time, I will take a flight to Mumbai. Why Mumbai? His Holiness Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin resides in Mumbai. He is the leader of my community and if I get eyesight for a day, seeing him would be on the top of my priority list. I will also visit Raudat Tahera – the mausoleum of Syedna Taher and Syedna Mohammed where I will definitely find peace. Taking a flight – will also let me witness the beautiful clouds from above and that is something I will cherish forever. With that, I will end my 24 hours – probably the most exciting 24 hours of my life.
Personal note from the author:
The whole journey of going to her house- doing an interview- to writing this article has been quite a journey for me. I’m a pessimist but after this journey, I am trying to change myself a bit. I hope reading this has been a great journey for you and it may have made you realize something important. Cheers to optimistic and inspirational people like Bilkis aunty. 🙂