Monday, November 26, 2012


THE BRILLIANCE OF BRAILLE                                                   

                              Louis Braille was born on 4 January, 1809 in the small village of Coupvray in France. He was the fourth and youngest child of Mr. Simon-Rene Braille, who was a skilled leather worker who used to make articles such as shoes, harness, bridle and saddle. Louis liked to play and work with leather while his father worked, but the child was not allowed to touch the sharp tools used by his father to cut and perforate leather. One day, when he was just three years old, when his father went out of his workshop for a brief work, little Louis picked up a sharp and pointed awl from his father's tool-box and bending over a piece of hard leather, tried to make a hole in the leather in an attempt to imitate his father's work. The awl accidentally slipped from his tiny hands and poked one of his eyes. This inflicted an injury and infection which led to loss of vision in that eye. The infection soon spread to the other eye and the poor child became totally blind at the age of three!

                             Though he was a bright, brilliant and intelligent student, his handicap made him unable to read or write like his colleagues in the village school. Though he learned by carefully listening to his teachers' words, his cruel colleagues avoided his company. He felt lonely and confused, but being very religious, sought refuge in prayer and singing hymns. He liked to learn but his handicap was a great obstacle and impediment.

                             At the age of ten, he won a scholarship to study in the Institut National des Jeunes Aveugles, (National Institute for Blind Children or Royal Institution for Blind Youth), in Paris, which was the first special school for blind students in the world, and served as a model for many subsequent schools for the visually impaired around the world. As he was very talented in music, he learned to play the organ and the cello. He used to play the organ in several churches and his performance was widely admired.

                             He had a great goal and dream in his life. At the age of 12 he started his new mission - to invent a system to enable the blind to read and write. He conceived the concept that if the letters could be felt by the fingertips, even a blind could read with ease. With his father's awl which blinded him, he experimented with a system of 'raised dots' on paper to represent the letters of the alphabet and the common marks of punctuation. He successfully completed his system of raised dots by the age of fifteen. He served as a teacher of the blind in the institute where he was a student. He was determined, dedicated and positive. He was admired by all his colleagues and students.

                             The system invented by Louis Braille has a series of raised or embossed dots. Each letter is formed by raising specific dots out of a total of six dots arranged in a rectangle consisting of two columns of three dots each. He expanded his system to accommodate notations for music and mathematics. Now the Braille system is available in a large number of languages and is used for a variety of applications including computer-aided operations. It is a boon to the blind. Braille's work has shaped the lives of millions of blind people and enabled them to lead a productive life, a life of dignity. Louis Braille died at the age of forty three on 6 January, 1852.

                            The outstanding contributions of Braille provided a vision and mission to the millions of disabled people. By determination and untiring effort, they too can work wonders and serve society.

                             In life, troubles, suffering and failures may fall on us. Let us not worry about them or feel hopeless. We should not let the troubles defeat us or bury us. We must shake them off and rise to the top, step by step, using every failure as a stepping-stone and not as a stumbling-block. Let us trust in God who will guide us through all our problems. A poet teaches the difference between pessimism and optimism thus:

"Two men looked out from prison bars;

One saw mud; the other saw stars."

                             Let us choose to look up to Heaven and rejoice in the Lord! St. Paul advises, "Don't worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking Him with a thankful heart" {Philippians 4:6}.

                          “The Lord says…I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to bring you prosperity and not disaster, plans to bring about the future you hope for” {Jeremiah 29: 11}.

                            Our life is like a boat, sailing through the sea of the world. We may be threatened by the tempests of troubles and temptations. But we can sail safely if our faith is strong. Jesus has control over the forces of nature. He may give us tests and trials so that we may grow further and stronger, but he never abandons us during hard times. He is with us through our joys and tears throughout our life. Let us pray, “Do not bring us to hard testing, but keep us safe from the evil one” {Matthew 6: 13}.”

                           "Let us be concerned for one another, to help one another to show love and to do good...let us encourage one another all the more..." {Hebrews, 10: 24, 25}.
© By: Dr. Babu Philip, Professor, Cochin University of Science & Technology, Fine Arts Avenue, Kochi-682016, Kerala, India, Prof. Mrs. Rajamma Babu, Former Professor, St. Dominic's College, Kanjirappally,  Leo. S. John and Neil John, Maniparambil, Ooriyakunnath, Kunnumbhagom, Kanjirappally, Kottayam-686507, Kerala, India.
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