Even at the tender age of seven, Rida Zehra, a blind Muslim girl appears to have more wisdom than many several times her age: it’s impressive enough that Zehra, without the use of Braille, knows and can recite the Bhagwad Gita by heart. But what really touches the heart is her faith, unshaken by religious boundaries of any sort.
“I like praying to God, whether it is by reading Gita or Quran. It doesn’t matter which God I pray [to]; after all I will never be able to see him even if he is there in front of me,” she said in a Times of India interview.
Currently in class three, Zehra’s quick learning abilities were discovered by her principal Praveen Sharma by sheer accident. Sharma decided to enter the school children in a competition on the Bhagwad Gita after hearing about it last year.
Sharma claimed it took him the help of several pandits to learn how to recite the Gita, but Zehra mastered the book simply by listening to him: “Zehra was one of the quick learners. I don’t have its copy in Braille, so I read it out to her and she knows it verbatim,” he said.
Zehra who was born with 80 per cent blindness was sent by her parents to Brij Mohan School, a residential institute for the blind in Meerut, when she was just three. Her parents and siblings live in Lohia Nagar where she goes for vacations and during festivals. She told ToI that she wants to study and teach other blind students to deliver them a ‘vision for life’ with education.
Zehra’s father, Raees Haider, who earns his living by selling biryani in the captial, told ToI that he simply wanted his daughter to be educated in spite of her visual impairment. “It doesn't matter to me whether she reads the Gita or the Quran. In fact, it is a matter of pride that she knows about other religions too; this will make her wiser than others," he said.
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