Visually impaired Indian comes to see Dubai

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Maya Murali, who lost her eyesight when she was just three, in front of the Burj Khalifa, Dubai.

This is Maya’s first overseas trip and she took a flight for the first time in her life to get here.

 

Millions of tourists visit Dubai every year, but now the emirate is host to one special visitor, who has come all the way from Kerala in India to spend her vacation with a college friend and see the city of her dreams.

What’s so special about that, you may ask. The thing is, Maya Murali can’t actually see. Now 29, she lost her eyesight at the tender age of three, from a degenerative condition. Her friends, UAE-based Indian couple Abin Ahamed and Shaimah Abdul Khader, took the initiative to bring her here on vacation, and if possible, help her restore her eyesight.

Maya with her friends who brought her to Dubai

This is Maya’s first overseas trip and she took a flight for the first time in her life to get here. It had been her long-held dream to visit the UAE, as she had heard wonderful stories about the place from Shaimah, her college friend and hostel roommate. Shaimah’s parents worked in the UAE for over four decades and Maya heard firsthand accounts of Arabia from her. Her other dream – as yet unfulfilled – is to regain her vision, for which her friends are trying to find the means and resources.

“I am happy to be visiting Dubai and ‘see’ so many things here. My friends, neighbours and even the immigration officials in India were sceptical about a visually impaired person going to Dubai. They asked me what’s there for someone who can’t see, but I have already experienced the various landmarks and activities in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, like The Dubai Mall, Burj Khalifa, Burj Al Arab, the abra ride, desert safari, Dubai Metro, Sheikh Zayed Mosque etc,” said Maya. “As my best friend Shaimah and her husband are here, I even left behind my white cane that I normally carry everywhere.” Even though the couple don’t drive, they have taken Maya almost everywhere using public transport.

A beautiful vision

Even sans eyesight, Maya works as a schoolteacher in Kerala.

Her friend Shaimah, a psychologist, says, “A lot of people who get depressed for small issues should learn from Maya, who overcame visual impairment and her family’s financial problems to become a schoolteacher and make a decent life for herself.”

Currently a teacher at Kumali Government High School, Maya says, “I teach normal students with the help of audio support and braille. Taking classes is easy for me.”

Maya does not suffer from total blindness, but it is severe nonetheless, due to the inherited degenerative condition Retinitis Pigmentosa. She can distinguish between light and darkness but cannot see clear images, only vague shadows instead. It certainly hasn’t come in the way of her enjoying Dubai’s sights and sounds to the hilt, thanks to the trip entirely financed by Abin, an architect. “Being my wife’s best friend, we decided to fulfill her desire of visiting a foreign country, travelling by flight and experiencing the various sights here,” Abin said. “As an architect, I have to visualise many things, but Maya has to visualise everything to go about daily life. She is an inspiration for all of us.”

Talking about her ease in navigating the city, Abin noted: “Travelling by Dubai Metro, Maya saw how friendly the metro system is to specially-abled people: even the elevator keyboard is braille-supported. And she is as touristy as anyone else, thrilled to take photos in front of the Burj Khalifa and Burj Al Arab and everywhere else!”

Enhanced senses to the rescue!

Visually impaired Maya Murali’s  other faculties are much sharper than people with regular eyesight. “When we went for the abra ride, we got lost in the hubbub of Deira, but Maya guided us by following the smell of seawater. We just followed her directions and she was right!” said Abin Ahamed.

In the desert, similarly, Maya experienced the landscape by removing her footwear and feeling the sand between her feet.

What most of us take for granted – like going to the mall – is a miracle for Maya. “I was thrilled to visit The Dubai Mall, it’s just a different experience. Back home, I can’t visit any of the big shopping malls.”

Maya has indeed come a long way from home and does not let her disability impair her life and happiness in any way. “I work in a school located far away from my village, and spend four hours commuting every day by public transport. I travel alone, cook my food alone and made the journey from Calicut International Airport to Abu Dhabi International Airport all by myself,” she says proudly.

Now what remains to be seen is if this gutsy young lady can find the way and means to restore her vision, get a new lease of life. and yes, see Dubai all over again in full clarity and colour.