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A dream sees the light of day

Despite the many challenges that she has faced, Stacy Rodrigues’ wish of being a writer has finally been realised. Her debut book ‘In search of’ releases today, October 12

CHRISTINE MACHADO | NT BUZZ

Stacy Rodrigues always dreamt of being a writer. However after being diagnosed at the age of 14 with heredomacular degeneration that causes a gradual bilateral decrease in vision, and upon the advice of a genetic counsellor who recommended that she pursue a career which did not strain her eyes, she was forced to abandon this path.

About five years ago however, with the aid of JAWS (Job Access With Speech), a computer screen reader programme that allows visually impaired users to read the screen either with a text-to-speech output or by a refreshable Braille display, Rodrigues began writing. However, after her first attempt, she realised that she had not put the story together in the right way. “It was at this point that I wished that I could read books. But reading was risky for me, so I started listening to audio books,” she says. This enabled her to get a better idea of how to pen her story. She also received guidance from a friend.

At first, the protagonist of her story was hearing impaired. “I thought that if I write about a visually impaired person, everyone would connect it to me and I wanted to avoid that,” she says.

However, following her participation two years ago, in ‘Princess India’, a beauty contest for visually impaired girls in Mumbai, Rodrigues realised that she had to shift gears.

“During the many rounds I got to listen to everyone’s stories and realised that they all pitied themselves and were always talking about how they had suffered so much. I, however, have always preferred to look at my impairment in a positive way,” she says.

Also, she faced issues when it came to people’s outlook of her condition at the pageant. “While the blind were treated specially, when it came to people with partial blindness their outlook was different. They thought that I was just pretending. And yes, we are not blind. But that does not mean that we don’t need to be understood,” she says.

The fact that she chose to be independent and travel to Mumbai alone for the contest, also made parents of other contestants, believe that she was lying about her condition. Rodrigues confesses that she has always faced this issue as people have a hard time understanding what low vision means. “I realised then that it would be better if the character had a similar condition as me as I would be able to express myself better,” she says.

Two important questions that she has sought to address in her book were how she understood and learnt to deal with her condition as a young girl, and how she learnt to paint. “These are two questions that I am always getting asked and I felt that I needed to answer these in the book,” says Rodrigues, who has done  solo art exhibitions like ‘The Giver’, ‘The World Through My eyes’ and ‘Into the light’.

Her book which is titled ‘In search of’ also includes her struggles in her professional life. She has also included a few true life instances that her friends have gone through as well as a few elements of fiction.

“Apart from learning more about a character that is visually impaired, readers will relate to the different relationships explored in the book. It is about parents, friends, one’s individual journey, about love, etc,” she says, adding that it will delve into how we learn from those experiences. “We always tend to look at the negative side rather than learning from these experiences,” she says. “I believe that you need to look at the positive. Holding on to the negative doesn’t get you anything, it just gets you depressed.”

(‘In search of’ will be released by chief guest Damodar Mauzo on October 12,

5 pm. at Nanutel, Margao)

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