Priya: The Fuel Called ‘Impossible’
By Priyangwada Perera Ceylon Today Features
How does it feel to be a young mother and be told that your newborn may never see the world? Brian Kingston, the second child of Priya Bastian was born premature. Even to this day, Priya is not sure what happened after that.
ICU, the lights, oxygen and the next thing she knew was that she was told that one of her child’s eye had to be lasered. To this day, Priya is confused as to what happened but she has her suspicions that the wrong eye was lasered and just like that, her boy lost his vision. In the next few months, Brain was taken to Panadura for traditional medicine. He was taken to Anuradhapura where another form of medicine was tried.
The boy even got a donor who was willing to give him eyes but Brian’s nerves were damaged, making all this hope futile. When Priya took little Brian to India, to try and improve his vision she was told that the eye which was fine seemed to have been damaged, where the optic nerve was impaired by lasering. Priya accepted this reality. Like a lioness, she decided to change her tactics.
This was the beginning of Priya’s quest to raise the star called Brian Kingston. “I knew it is pointless to hang on to the eyes. I had to educate him, no matter what.
If someday I manage to heal him and he regains his vision, he would benefit even more if he is educated.” So, Priya stepped into battle grounds, and today, her son has made her dream a reality. Brian made a record at his school, the Ceylon School for the Deaf and Blind, Ratmalana when he recently scored nine bold As for all his subjects. But this was no miracle.
Every pass mark Brian scored should be engraved in gold, for the effort, sheer grit and hard work that made it possible. Every ‘A’ should also have a flower called Priya, blooming underneath. Residing in Mattakkuliya meant they would spend much time on the road going back and forth but Priya had one goal. Although she couldn’t send Brian to school at the age when other children would ideally begin school, Priya managed to put Brian to nursery at the age of six.
Priya was determined to enrol her son to the Ceylon School for the Deaf and Blind, Ratmalana but before that, she worked hard on her own to prepare Brian. “By the time Brian was seven years, Brian was in Grade 1 for three months. I met the Principal and requested him to check my son’s ability and promote him to the correct class. So, being in Grade 1, Brian did the exams that qualified him to Grade 3. He aced it.
Brian passed the exams. But since he was just sevem years old, he was promoted to Grade 2,” Priya recalled with much satisfaction. When it was time for the Grade 5 Scholarship Exam, Priya and her son’s tireless efforts paid off when he scored a whooping 155 - this was the start of Brian’s record making journey. To this day, it is an unbeaten record and remains the school’s highest Scholarship Examination Mark.
Priya got him the assistance of teacher Biso from the Blind Council to learn Braille. It was Priya who sat with Brian and learnt Braille first and then went on to teach and help Brian. Brian had a support system that encouraged him every step of the way. Priya’s mother was their strength at home. For all these years, Priya would start her tailoring and sewing business around 6 p.m. and burn the midnight oil. “We need money. We have to find the transport fare. I have to buy at least a packet of milk for Brian.
So, this is how I earned it. I woke up daily at 2.30 a.m. and woke Brian at 3.00 a.m. We had to catch the bus at 4.30 a.m. to go to Ratmalana,” Priya recalled their routine. Meanwhile, her mother would send off her older son, Ramston to school. When his Ordinary Level exam got closer, Priya rented a small house in Ratmalana and stayed with Brian to save on travel time while her older son Ramstom and her mother stayed in Mattakkuliya.
Brian attended a private tuition class for Science, in the last few months because online learning was becoming extremely challenging to Brian. “That class, of course, was for other students but I listened to the lessons and conveyed them to him.
I would record the lesson and listen to it at home,” she recounted. At G.C.E. O/L even the visually challenged students get the same Science paper as other students, so one can only imagine how tough it would be for a visually impaired individual to have to learn geometry, graphs and other such things that are already a challenge to everyone else.
Brian’s mother Priya’s heroics don’t end here. A devout Tamil Catholic she knew God had a plan. “There were so many people whose words stabbed my heart, when they found out Brian was blind.
I had to show them that Brian was not my burden but blessing. I was not going to keep my child hidden from society. We do not want anyone’s sympathy. We only need your love, understanding and empathy,” she said. Priya spoke of how she was initially told that it is because of their sins that she got such a baby.
“This was what I wanted to reverse. I wanted to show the world that this child was given to me, because we are absolutely lucky.” Brian was not only good with the books, he excelled in sports too. “I was not going to let my child be handicapped. Yes, he cannot see. But the rest of his body is normal and strong. He is capable of anything.” Priya opined. “I put Brian with other children.
I got Ramston, to hold Brian’s hand and run. As a child, I made him run. I waited and encouraged as he ran, on a safe ground. I got his cousins to involve him in running and playing.” To which Brian added, “Because my mother firmly believed in my abilities and held my hand and ran with me, I picked up confidence. That is how I became the Senior School Overall Champion in sports in 2019.
I also became the All Island Champion in Shot Put in 2020.” His mother never considered him an embarrassment. Brian was always taken out, be it for social gatherings, weddings or Christmas shopping. Priya wanted her child to feel and sense the world. “I knew my mother had immense faith in me.
I knew she was proud of me and was not ashamed of me. That gave me the message that if she is proud of me, I need to be proud of myself and show the world that I am no different,” Brian said.
Brian’s achievements are enormous and there’s no doubt that he will only shine bigger and brighter with all his endeavours ahead – that being said, Priya is no less a hero in this story than Brian and she deserves to be known to the world for she is she is the epitome of a mother’s will and strength to bring a world of opportunities to her child despite the noise others made and the lengthy list of limitations they posed.
(Pix by Kelum Chamara)