Success Stories

  • Manjunath V., Srinivas Murthy and Ashok

Meet Manjunath V., Srinivas Murthy and Ashok. They are all in their early 20s, undergraduate and visually challenged. They are the three visually challenged people to anchor news bulletins in the history of Indian television. They anchored Kannada news on Doordarshan Kendra's regional Channel Chandana in Bangalore Jan 4, the second birth centenary of Louis Braille, founder of the Braille script.

The audience response has been so enthusiastic that Chandana channel has decided to soon start a 10-minute Kannada news bulletin once a month to be exclusively read by visually challenged people.

Manjunath, blind from birth and a second year student of bachelor of arts at St Joseph Arts and Science college, Bangalore, said: "I am very happy to have read news on TV. As a visually challenged person, I have faced many difficulties and stigmas in my life. The entire act of anchoring a news program was quite empowering. I am looking forward to anchoring more news bulletins in the coming months."

Murthy, a first year of Bachelor of Arts student at the Vijayanagar first grade government college, Bangalore, too is elated by his new popularity.

"Now everybody in my college recognizes me and asks for my autograph. I feel good that I too could read news like any other normal person," smiled Srinivas, who is also blind from birth.

Ashok, a first year student of Bachelor of Arts at St Joseph Arts and Science college, Bangalore, was happy that he made quite an impact by reading news on a leading television channel.

"I feel great that through three of us the issues relating to visually challenged people are getting noticed. We're no less than others and need empathy and not sympathy to succeed in life," said Ashok, who is also blind from birth.

Officials of the TV channel said that the audience response to these three news anchors has been very encouraging.

"We were amazed to see the reaction of the audience. Since Jan 4 we have been flooded with congratulatory messages for taking such a huge step in encouraging visually challenged people. Within two months we will start a special monthly news bulletin to be anchored by the three visually challenged newsreaders," Rajendra Katti, programme executive of Bangalore Doordarshan, told IANS.

"They have become heroes for their community and people are calling us to find out more about all three of them. They are very good in their job and we hope that the three will continue doing great work in the coming months as news anchors," added Katti.

The three read news in all the six bulletins telecast on the channel at 7.45 a.m., 11.00 a.m., 3 p.m., 5 p.m., 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Jan 4, along with regular news anchors Prabha Karanjee and D. Rajeshwari.

Asked why he initiated this experiment, Mahesh Joshi, senior director of the Doordarshan Kendra here, said the three of them are very talented and had the potential to be good news anchors.

"I never doubted their talent. They are as good and talented as any other normal news reader. That is why I have chosen them. It was a kind of tribute to Louis Braille on his second birth centenary," Joshi said.

Joshi trained the three of them every day for nearly 30 minutes for almost one month in the art of news reading and anchoring.

According to People with Disabilities in India: From Commitments to Outcomes the latest report prepared by the World Bank in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, the country has 60 million disabled people.

Out of them 10 percent are hearing and speech impaired, whereas 48 percent are visually impaired, followed by 28 percent movement impaired and 14 percent mentally disabled. Louis Braille was the inventor of Braille, a world wide system used by visually impaired people for reading and writing. Braille is read by passing the fingers over characters made up on an arrangement of one to six embossed points. Braille has been adapted to many languages around the world.

  • Payal Kapoor

She might have missed the sight of Aamir Khan's eight-pack abs in 'Ghajini' but still enjoyed every bit of the movie. Her recent trip to a village might be sans any color or shape but she can recount every minute of the journey. She loves the rain and enjoys the sound of music. Life could not be better for her than this.

After living with visual impairment for almost 17 years now, Payal Kapoor has perhaps learnt how to live life, despite all odds. A successful professional as a Relationship Manager with the Residency Hotel, Payal juggles domestic chores (cooking and cleaning) and ~professional commitments with ease. Her visual impairment is a "non issue'' as she deftly makes client calls, introduces the hotel to them and encourages them to patronise it.

On World Braille Day, Payal shares the story of how she lost her sight at the prime of her youth at 22. But she narrates it heartrendingly in the same vein in which she discusses the long drives she takes with her husband to the city outskirts or reads a book on the computer.

That Payal was not born blind but lost her sight at a much later age makes her dogged determination to strike back more significant. Payal lost not only her complete vision but also her sense of taste, smell and touch at 22. She still cannot hear from the left ear, a result of the cerebral attack that she suffered then and an infection that damaged her optic nerve.

A student of hotel management and then a front desk employee at Krishna Oberoi (Taj Krishna now), Payal says she stayed in denial for six years (after being declared visually impaired). "After visiting every church, temple, dargah and baba in the country, I realized that there was no cure to what had happened and I had to live with it. Enough is enough I said and decided to move on,'' says the 39-years old without any lump in her voice. 

A rehabilitation program along with words of encouragement from family and friends brought some hope and she soon became a counselor and rehabilitator herself in no time. She says she had realized the power of technology and how it could bring back normalcy into any blind person's life. She even started visiting government hostels and schools for the blind to teach them spoken English and other day-to-day skills. "I thought it was my moral responsibility,'' says Payal who is also the chief functionary of Maitree, a group that works for the uplift of the visually challenged.

Advanced technology, love and support of dear ones has helped Payal deal with her disability.

NO LOOKING BACK: Payal Kapoor who lost her sight 17 years ago.

  • John Roebling and Washington

In 1883, a creative engineer named John Roebling was inspired by an idea to build a spectacular bridge connecting New York with the Long Island. However bridge building experts throughout the world thought that this was an impossible feat and told Roebling to forget the idea. It just could not be done.

It was not practical. It had never been done before. Roebling could not ignore the vision he had in his mind of this bridge. He thought about it all the time and he knew deep in his heart that it could be done. He just had to share the dream with someone else. After much discussion and persuasion he managed to convince his son Washington, an up and coming engineer, that the bridge in fact could be built.

Working together for the first time, the father and son developed concepts of how it could be accomplished and how the obstacles could be overcome. With great excitement and inspiration, and the headiness of a wild challenge before them, they hired their crew and began to build their dream bridge.

The project started well, but when it was only a few months underway a tragic accident on the site took the life of John Roebling. Washington was injured and left with a certain amount of brain damage, which resulted in him not being able to walk or talk or even move.

“We told them so.” “Crazy men and their crazy dreams” “It’s foolish to chase wild visions.” Everyone had a negative comment to make and felt that the project should be scrapped since the Roeblings were the only ones who knew how the bridge could be built. In spite of his handicap Washington was never discouraged and still had a burning desire to complete the bridge and his mind was still as sharp as ever.

He tried to inspire and pass on his enthusiasm to some of his friends, but they were too daunted by the task. As he lay on his bed in his hospital room, with the sunlight streaming through the windows, a gentle breeze blew the flimsy white curtains apart and he was able to see the sky and the tops of the trees outside for just a moment.

It seemed that there was a message for him not to give up. Suddenly an idea hit him. All he could do was move one finger and he decided to make the best use of it. By moving this, he slowly developed a code of communication with his wife. He touched his wife’s arm with that finger, indicating to her that he wanted her to call the engineers again. Then he used the same method of tapping her arm to tell the engineers what to do. It seemed foolish but the project was under way again.

For 13 years Washington tapped out his instructions with his finger on his wife’s arm, until the bridge was finally completed. Today the spectacular Brooklyn Bridge stands in all its glory as a tribute to the triumph of one man’s indomitable spirit and his determination not to be defeated by circumstances. It is also a tribute to the engineers and their team work, and to their faith in a man who was considered mad by half the world. It stands too as a tangible monument to the love and devotion of his wife who for 13 long years patiently decoded the messages of her husband and told the engineers what to do.

Perhaps this is one of the best examples of a never-say-die attitude that overcomes a terrible physical handicap and achieves an impossible goal. Often when we face obstacles in our day-to-day life, our hurdles seem very small in comparison to what many others have to face. The Brooklyn Bridge shows us that dreams that seem impossible can be realized with determination and persistence, no matter what the odds are.

Even the most distant dream can be realized with determination and persistence.

  • Cary Supalo

Cary Supalo, a blind biochemist, wants to help blind chemistry students succeed in science. Last Wednesday, Cary Supalo, a blind biochemist, introduced a group of students and teachers to the tools he is developing to help visually impaired students succeed in chemistry. Supalo, who graduated from Pennsylvania State University in 1999 and is currently a member of the National Federation of the Blind, said many blind students feel they suffer from a lack of opportunity. He questioned whether or not the "passive approach" many teachers currently take toward blind students in the classroom would encourage anyone to pursue a career in science.

He recalled a time during high school when he was extremely excited to take calculus but found out his high school was unwilling to support him. He remembered telling a teacher, "I am always going to be limited in what I achieve." "That's how I truly felt in high school," he said.

As a result, Supalo is determined to "foster a more hands-on experience" for blind students in the chemistry lab. He feels the key to making students passionate about a particular subject is to give them the confidence to do the work by themselves.

He noted that blind students like to be in front of the class so they are less distracted by noises some students would consider insignificant, such as "the infamous candy wrapper." In addition, students should read the lab before class so they can "predict what they think is going to happen."

Supalo discussed several technological developments to assist blind students in the classroom. He introduced a program called JAWS (Job Access with Speech), designed to convert computer text into audible speech. Supalo and his colleagues managed to make JAWS compatible with the various lab probes created by Vernier Technologies. Thanks to Supalo and his team, more than 125 probes are now able to convert text to speech.

Supalo discussed the Submersible Audible Light Sensor, or SALS. This device consists of a submersible sensor attached to a control box, which contains a speaker. The SALS allows blind students to recognize when a combination of chemicals yields a new result. Since the student is unable to see the reaction, the SALS produces a certain pitch when it is submerged in liquid. When two chemicals combine, a completely different pitch is produced due to the change in light content, indicating to the student a change has taken place in real time. Supalo demonstrated the SALS to the audience, and it was clear that many people were impressed with the technology.

Another device showcased at the lecture was the Color Analysis Laboratory Sensor, or CALS. Like the SALS, this device consists of a probe connected to a control box. The CALS identifies the values of red, green, blue and white to tell the student the color of a specific solid or liquid. The CALS can identify certain shades of colors, such as "light red" (pink) or "dark blue" (navy). It currently has a 95 percent success rate, and Supalo is working to make it even more accurate.

In addition to the SALS and CALS, Supalo also mentioned a new stopwatch for blind students he helped develop. It is the only one of its kind that allows for accuracy up to one hundredth of a second. Supalo told the audiences these devices could be used in a variety of modified experiments for blind students, such as a "freezing point depression" lab.

Supalo concluded that above all else, he wanted to "maintain a high expectation for blind students."

"It is important to educate blind students so they feel that they really can do this stuff," he said.

Eva Scott, a teacher in the visually impaired program at the College, thought Supalo's presentation was "awesome."

"He's right that there are so many blind students that are easily discouraged, and I think this is opening a lot of doors," she said.

  • Sudha Chandran

The dancer
How would you expect someone with a leg amputated and yet still make it big in dancing? She did it and inspires others.
More Power to you!

Sudha Chandran, a classical dancer from India, was cut off in the prime of her career - quite literally - when her right leg had to be amputated after a car accident. The dancer was 17 when tragedy struck. Her right leg was badly injured in a traffic accident and had to be amputated below the knee when gangrene set in.

The tragedy was all the more poignant as Sudha was on the verge of beginning a glittering career in Baratha Natyam, one of the most exacting forms of Indian classical dance. Sudha's world crumbled. She felt that all the years of training had gone to waste and in any case what kind of life was it to be without a leg. The reality that she would never dance again was too much to cope with, she simply did not want to live.

During the six month recuperation period after surgery she became obsessed with the idea of walking again but without crutches. By chance she picked up a magazine and read about Dr Sethi and his famous Jaipur foot and immediately made an appointment to see him. This was in December 1981.

The first question she asked of him was 'will I dance again?' His reply without hesitation was 'why not'. They tried out various options including a spring loaded ankle fitting for more flexibility essential for the intricate footwork required in Baratha Natyam. The spring was not successful as it kept jamming during practice. For the next round of fittings Sudha brought her dance teacher along.

For twenty days Dr Sethi and his team watched the two working together. In the end they fitted her with the same Jaipur foot and limb that was given to any other amputee who came to the rehabilitation centre at the SMS Hospital in Jaipur.

Sudha's dance practice resumed in earnest. It was like starting all over again. She persevered through pain, blood, tears and doubts. Her family, teacher and doctor stood by her in this ordeal. It was worth it, for in 1984, she danced again for the first time in front of a capacity Bombay audience. After paying obeisance to the Lord of Dance she started and finished to thunderous applause two and a half hours later. Overnight she had become a celebrity and a star was born. She was feted in the press.

She starred in a feature film 'Mayure' her life story, and it was an instant box office 'Bollywood' hit. Other offers of stardom and many dance recitals followed. She acted in many films and was invited to perform all over the world, living proof that the Jaipur foot works and became its most ardent ambassador. She now lives and works in Bombay. Her heavy work schedule as leading lady and star of numerous TV soaps leaves very little time for dancing; she can only manage one or two dance recitals a year. She has come a long way from the young girl wanting to end it all to a mature woman who considers that fateful accident a blessing in disguise. Her story, much simplified, is also featured in a Standard Three reader for every primary school going
child in India.

It truly shows that nothing is impossible in this world. If you have the will you can achieve anything in this world!

  • Sagar Morankar

PUNE: City-based Sagar Morankar, a 22-year-old visually challenged student has been granted Pratham P K Sirdeshmukh Maharaj Scholarship for his dedication in dhrupad (classical) singing. Hailing from Chalisgaon, Jalgaon district, Sagar came to Pune when he was in 1st standard in 1993 and took admission in Pune Home for Blind, Koregaon Park.

"I participated in a play, Swatantryachi Yashogatha in 1998, which had 88 visually challenged students along with me. Our performance was appreciated wherever the play was staged in the state," said Sagar, the son of chief chemist at a Sugar Factory in Chalisgaon.

He further told Sakaal Times that, "Pandit Uday Bhawalkar after taking a voice test selected me as his shishya (student) while I was in 6th standard. I travelled from Karve Nagar to Koregaon Park thrice a week to take singing lessons from him. Since, last five years I am staying at Guruji's place (Pt. Bhawalkar place) and taking lessons of Dhrupad singing in true guru shishya parampara. There is nothing other than music and riyaaz."

He named Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Kumar Gandharva and Kishore Kumar as his favourites. He also mentioned that Sangeeta Mate, his music teacher at primary school, was his source of inspiration.

Jyoti Bhawalkar, wife of Pandit Bhawalkar said, "Sagar is very active and dedicated towards his singing. He knows what he wants from his life. Considering his age he is very mature."

Sagar, while elaborating about the experience of getting the scholarship, said, "I am very happy. But I am nervous now as this has increased my responsibility and I should work more to improve my singing skills."

The scholarship which consists of Rs 20,000 cash, will be awarded to Sagar on November 25 at Manohar Mangal Karyalaya, at 6 pm.

  • Mohammed Wasim

Wasim is an expert at chess and has won several national-level competitions. He plays the veena and the tabla and has performed in many concerts in the U.S.

Admirable: Mohammed Wasim working on his laptop in Bangalore.

Bangalore: Articulate speech coupled with a pinch of philosophy and unending optimism defines Mohammed Wasim, a visually challenged English tutor, at the Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled. Born with his vision intact, Mr. Wasim developed microphthalmos, a hereditary eye disease, that eventually led to his being visually impaired at the age of seven.

Refusing to give up on life, he completed his basic education from Shree Ramana Maharishi Academy for the Blind and the pre-university course from the Government PU College. He overcame several obstacles to eventually obtain a BA degree, with specialization in journalism, English literature and political science from Surana College, Bangalore.

Speaking to The Hindu, Mr. Wasim said: "I joined the trust as a student and now I serve as a teacher, reaching out to the disabled and economically backward. The trust has gifted me with the ability to 'read' without eyes. I can use numerous computer applications, email and surf the Internet for information using screen readers. Software, such as ABBYY, JAWS and the more recent DAISY have added light to my life. I have also been able to read and enjoy popular books such as Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner and J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. The mobility training that I have undergone helps me live independently, even commute by the city bus service."

Mr. Wasim is an expert at chess and has won several national-level competitions. He plays the veena and the tabla and has performed in many concerts in the U.S. He has participated in Republic Day parades at the Manekshaw Parade Ground. He coaches students in English grammar, communication, voice and accent skills.

G. Chetan Krishna, former classmate, who works with Mr. Wasim, said: "Never underestimate the capabilities of the disabled. Wasim is an example for the potential present within each one of us. The determination and optimism that he possesses are the fuel that will drive away stereotypes and prejudices, which still haunt our society."

  • Amar Jain

Amar Jain, a Visually Impaired Law Student in Mumbai wants to set example of Independence that a visually impaired can avail in the present day available technology. I hope you will praise and support this initiative and that the Government and Institutions also open themselves up to include such facilities that provide independence. Here is the news:

Blind student wants to script his own success

He is pursuing a degree at Government Law College in Churchgate, and does not want to depend on a writer to take his exams. Amar Jain, 18, is visually-impaired. However, that doesn't stop him from pursuing a degree at the Government Law College based in Churchgate. The only thing that demotivates him is the fact that he has to depend on a writer, while appearing for his exams.

The sprightly youth from Jodhpur, however, insists on giving his exams online — without the help of a writer. Spurred by the desire to be completely independent, Jain with the help of his college lecturers has filed an application to seek an amendment to the Maharashtra government notification, which stipulates certain guidelines for the benefit of the visually impaired. "The notification is applicable to senior secondary schools, colleges and universities, and states that visually-impaired persons may appear for an exam with the help of a writer," explained Jain.

"However, it is possible for a visually-impaired student to give the exams online with the help of a computer software called Job Access With Speech (JAWS). Since I am well-versed with computers, I would like to have the option of giving my exams online," said Jain.

There are a number of screen-reading software in the market, which, when loaded in a computer, speech-controls all computer applications, (including whatever is on the screen), thus enabling students to access and use the computer easily. JAWS, owned by a US-based company is the most popular such software available in India.

Source: DNA Mumbai.

  • Another feather in Asudani brothers "Record Cap"

ASUDANI brothers and records have become almost synonymous with each other. This time, Asudani brothers have created new records. The youngest Rajesh has become the first person to have cleared National Eligibility Test (NET) for lectureship and junior research fellowship (JRF) in three subjects. Whereas, Rajesh and Vinod have become first ever blind persons to qualify as psychologists in India. Both have also been invited to participate in the first-ever Kavi Sammelan of blind poets organized by Madhya Pradesh Sahitya Akademi on November 2 at Bhopal. Rajesh, Vinod and Ghanshyam also attended and presented research papers in National Conference on Information and Communication Technology for Differently Able Persons (NCICT for DAP), and Second Convention of AccessIndia held at Ahmedabad last month. NCICTT for DAP was organized by Ahmedabad chapter of Computer Society of India, and convention was held by AccessIndia, which is an e-group of the blind persons.

Notably, despite being visually impaired, Asudani brothers have shown to the world that they are very much capable of doing things better than others. A number of national and international publications including Limca Book of Records have taken note of their superb academic performance. Rajesh is a Class I officer in Reserve Bank of India. Ghanshyam is Associate Professor in English in Anand Niketan College of Agriculture, and Vinod is senior lecturer in English in Shri Ramdeobaba Kamla Nehru Engineering College. Rajesh has become first person to qualify in NET conducted by UGC in three subjects. 

He has qualified for-JRF in psychology in NET Conducted in December 2007. Previously, he cleared -NET in English in December 2001, and that in Law in June 2007. He also has qualified for JRF in Law. He has won JRF in two of three NETs he has cleared. Currently, he intends to pursue interdisciplinary research in Law and Psychology for which he has written to UGC to allow him to avail twin fellowships he has won.

It may be mentioned here that Rajesh had topped the general merit list in SSC in 1992, HSSC in 1994, LLB in 1999, and MA (English) in 2001, for which he got the highest number of gold medals in 87th convocation of Nagpur University. He did post-graduation in Law and Applied Psychology also. Rajesh has appeared for examinations totaling more than 12000 marks, and has scored a remarkable average of 71 per cent. Rajesh and Vinod have stood first and second in M.Sc. (Applied Psychology) examination of Annamalai University by scoring 71.20 per cent and 68.20 per cent marks respectively, to qualify as psychologists in India.

Rajesh and Ghanshyam presented paper on Technology and Law in the Employment of visually impaired, at NCICT for DAP and Vinod presented session on Emotional Intelligence at Second Convention of Access-India at Ahmedabad. Rajesh conducted a session on Rights for Persons with Disabilities, International Convention, What Next! Rajesh and Vinod, who have published a joint collection of Gazzals - 'Adhoora Aasman' in 2002, have been invited to participate in the first-ever meet of blind poets organized by Madhya Pradesh Sahitya Akademi. Vinod, who has to his credit three collections of Sindhi poems, appears regularly at meets of organizations like Sahitya Akademi. Asudani brothers have rendered credit for their success to mother Lakshmi Devi, Kanan and Prerna who wrote their answer papers in the examination, friends, colleagues, and well-wishers.

Rajesh has also rendered credit to his wife Nanda, and daughter Akalpita.

  • Ms. R. Priya

CHENNAI: R. Priya, a visually challenged girl of V.V.V. College for Women in Virudhunagar, had an unusual project in mind for her M.Phil dissertation -Rehabilitation programme for women at the Vellore special prison.' In a rare gesture, the Prison Department permitted Ms. Priya to interview 50 of the 72 convicts lodged in the special prison. Many of them were serving a life sentence. "They were very kind to me and answered all my questions. Besides the rehabilitation aspects, I focussed on their socio-economic background. Almost all the women inmates are illiterates and hail from a rural background," Ms. Priya says.

According to her, many women prisoners confessed that they committed crimes because they were left with no option. "Harassment by drunken husbands and extramarital affairs are common reasons for their taking the extreme step. There are some aged women convicted for female infanticide and dowry deaths." A majority of the inmates expressed satisfaction over the facilities at the prison. However, some opined that vocational courses such as tape and thread making were decades-old employment schemes introduced during the British regime. Such skills would not fetch employment on release. They wanted better income-generating programmes, the girl quoted the prisoners as saying.

This was not the first venture of Ms. Priya. When she was a post graduation student in a Madurai college, she did a project on the life convicts in Madurai central prison. Her father runs a tea shop at Anna Nagar, Madurai. "I want to do Ph.D based on the living conditions of prisoners in Tamil Nadu and recommend measures that will make their life easy," she added.

Director-General of Prisons R. Natraj said the student's request for project work in the Special Prison for Women in Vellore was considered as a special case. She showed keen interest in understanding the life of women convicts, he added.

Source: "The Hindu", date: 22-09-2008

  • George Abraham

It was May 1981, I was on a train from Delhi to Ernakulam, Kerala . I had just completed Masters in O R (Operations Research) from the prestigious St.Stephen’s College, Delhi and was going home. The journey was symbolic, in the sense that it marked the end of a rather exciting and enjoyable student life. As I settled onto my berth, my thoughts drifted towards the future. Yes, I was at the threshold of a professional career. Some of my friends had already got job offers. Few of them had even begun work. I had decided to take a couple of months off to relax at home before embarking on my search for a job. My mother had died of cancer barely 6 months earlier and I felt it was important for me to spend some time with my father.

Given my background in O R and Mathematics, I was looking forward to a possible career as a Systems Analyst. I was also open to taking up a Marketing assignment. I felt I would be good at marketing since I enjoyed meeting people, traveling and facing up to challenges
Having studied in one of India’s top colleges, I was confident of making a mark in life. I believed that finding a job would be a simple matter of routine. As I hopped off the train at Ernakulam, I was delighted to see my father at the station. He seemed equally thrilled to meet up with his Post Graduate son.

After a month or so, I began my job hunt in right earnest. I developed my CV. I made it a point to mention that I was Visually Impaired, since I was clear that my potential employers needed to know about my disability before they hired me. Every morning the newspaper was scanned, jobs were identified and applications were sent. Surprise! Surprise! contrary to my expectations, the response was far from being overwhelming. Infact there were just the three or four polite regret letters that said “Your CV is indeed impressive, however we do not have a suitable job for you at the moment. Will get in touch with you as soon as something comes up.” A little disappointing, but then I pressed on. My father sent my CV to some of his friends who had volunteered to try and help. An uncle of mine who had retired from one of India’s top Industrial groups wrote to some of his contacts. Nothing seemed to be working out. I guess, people did not want to take a chance with my disability.

My confidence that was sky high scarcely a few months before, had started dwindling. I felt , I was running out of options. For the first time in life, my disability seemed to pose a genuine challenge. I could see myself withdrawing into a shell. Social gatherings and family get-togethers no longer seemed to hold their charm. To make matters worse, I could sense an attitude change amongst relatives and family friends. I overheard some of them share their concern with my father. They appeared to be sorry for me. I heard them ask questions like “What is his future? Do you have any plans? It must be really tough on you “ and so on.

All of a sudden, I felt terribly alone. I began to miss my mother. She had been a source of solid support and strength during my growing up years. She was one person, I could confide in. Frustration and self pity started creeping in and I could see myself slipping to a new low with every passing day. Something had to be done. Nearly nine months had gone by and no progress had been made. Most of my friends from college had got themselves jobs and were well on their way. My mother had always told me that there was a God above and that nothing happened without his knowledge. She would say that, “We need to have Faith. Nothing is impossible with Him. He is truly the Living God and He loves you.” She had further told me, “Son, whenever you are in trouble, turn to Him.”

Finally as a last option, I turned to God. I spent hours reading my large print Bible and praying. I prayed with feeling. My mother’s reassuring words kept coming back to me. ”Nothing is impossible with God”. I was determined to get God onto my case. Days went by and nothing changed, but I persisted. I realized that I Had no other option. I surrendered myself entirely to God and told Him to shape and mould my life. It was early April, 1982. I was woken up at 4 in the morning. It wasn’t a voice that shook me from my slumber, it was a commanding thought that totally changed my life. The thought filled me with tremendous energy. I had never felt like that before. I could not wait for my father to wake up. For the next three hours or so, I paced restlessly in my room. Millions of thoughts and ideas raced across my mind. I was literally jumping up and down.

I believe that God had spoken to me and had given me definite direction. He said” Son, if you want to do something in life, go out and do it yourself. Go out in Faith and the World will be at your feet.” I had made up my mind. I decided to take the first available train to Delhi , since that was the city I knew best. When I shared my morning’s experience with my father, he readily agreed. He said “Son, go for it.”
A week later I was on the train bound for the capital full of positive energy. The 52 hours on the train gave me the time to take stock of things and charter a plan of action. Advertising was the career I had chosen. The depression and despair of the past nine odd months had given way to hope and anticipation. I could not wait for things to happen. I arrived in Delhi on the 21st of April, 1982. Three days later I landed my first job with one of the country’s larger Advertising agencies. I was appointed as Trainee Accounts Executive. This was the beginning of a journey that had been specially chosen for me by the Living God. Yes the job was waiting for me. I had just to go out in Faith and get it. Nothing is impossible with God. I have realized and learnt that if I am prepared to surrender my life to God and live in Faith, He will work wonders. Who says God does not talk to us. Ask me.

George Abraham

  • Sri T.D. Dinakar: The first VC who cleared civil service exam

Determination sees him through

The first visually challenged person to enter the civil services, T. D. Dinakar, had to wage a five-year battle to get there. Despite progressive laws for persons with disabilities in India, equal opportunities for them in jobs remain an unfulfilled dream. He shared his personal experience, hopes and despairs with Vidya Venkat. "I was denied a civil service posting though I had cleared the UPSC examinations for a Group 'A' post in 2002. This, several years after the progressive Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) (PWD) Act was passed. I approached the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities in New Delhi for help, but in vain. People who had scored lesser than me were given postings, but not me.

The Commissioner too never responded to my appeal." In 2003, Dinakar filed a case in the Delhi High Court. "I had spent a lot of time and money in clearing the exams and decided not to give up," he says. In 2005, the single judge who heard his case demanded an explanation from the Union Public Service Commission and the Department of Personnel and Training for not implementing the PWD Act. The UPSC preferred an appeal and put the blame on the DoPT for not identifying any posts for the visually challenged.

"It was only after an interim order in this case came in 2007 that the DoPT offered me a Group B posting saying vacancies were available there. I refused it. Then the court offered me a job in the Indian Railways Personnel Service." In March 2007, Dinakar joined the services. It is two months since he started reporting to the Southern Railways office in Chennai. But he is not fully satisfied. His contention is that he should be given an IAS posting. Also, though he belongs to the 2001 batch, he is being paid on par with the 2007 batch officers, disregarding his seniority. 'Is it my mistake?' "Is it my mistake that the DoPT failed to identify posts for persons like me?" Meanwhile, Dinakar's case has inspired several visually challenged persons to enter the civil services. Ravikumar Arora, who is partially blind, got the IAS whereas Krishna Gopal Tiwari, who is totally blind, got an Indian Railway Personnel Service posting. Dinakar studied at the PSG College of Arts and Science in Coimbatore. He lost his vision due to retinal degeneration at the age of 20. He gave up his job at an insurance agency to fulfil his dream of becoming an IAS. But today, this trendsetter is disillusioned. "I advice other visually challenged persons not to aspire for the civil services. It has lost its original charm. Besides fighting for my job, I feel I have lost more than gaining." He is disappointed at how most people are unaware that with enabling technology, visually challenged persons can work independently. "During the UPSC interview most of the questions were centred on whether I could do paperwork or be sure that the peon in office wouldn't cheat on me." Despite all these, Dinakar maintains a radiant smile on his face. He borrows from the title of Koestler's famous book on blindness in American society: "We remain an unseen minority." He cites an example: Visually challenged cannot use the ATM to withdraw money, because banks have not adapted these facilities for them.

Source: The Hindu

  • Jagannath Gauda

CUTTACK: It was sheer determination and lots of perseverance for this 15-year-old physically challenged boy to achieve what even thousands of able students of his age failed to accomplish. Jagannath Gauda of Gochhabadi village of Buguda block in Ganjam district has never felt let down for being born without the forelimbs. He has once again proved that if there is a will, there is definitely a way when he passed this year's Matriculation examinations in second division as a regular student.

For not having any of the hands since birth, Jagannath started writing with his legs when he entered the primary school of his village. Since I was able to do a lot of things with my legs like brushing my teeth, cleaning my tongue, drinking and eating, I thought of why not give a try to hold a pencil and start writing with my legs. With some initial hiccups, it worked wonders and soon I mastered the art, says a confident Jagannath who has since then not looked back and very easily went on to pass the Class IX examinations in 2007.

Pre-board Exam

He also cleared the Class X pre-board examinations last year from Buguda People's High School by writing the answer scripts with his legs. But during the final school leaving (Matriculation) examinations for which he had to appear the test at nearby Balipadar High School in March this year, the State Board of Secondary Education (BSE) authorities did not allow him to write the answers with his legs.

Instead, the centre superintendent engaged a class IX student of the school to write the answer sheets for him. A reluctant Jagannath had to dictate the answers to the junior girl in a separate room. Although, he was not satisfied with the arrangements, Jagannath was confident of clearing the examinations with flying colors. I could have got better marks writing with my legs, Jagannath, who secured 51 per cent of marks in the examination, rues.

Except for putting and removing his clothes, Jagannath doesn't depend on anyone else in carrying out his daily chores. He can comb his hairs and play certain indoor games like ludo and cards with his legs. He plays football with elegance but loves to watch cricket matches in TV, says his father Surendranath Gauda who works as a village choukidar to support a family of six members, including three sons and a daughter. Seeing the child born without the forelimbs, the neighbors and relatives suggested the parents to name him after Lord Jagannath. But unlike Lord Jagannath, none of this Buguda Jagannth's siblings are handicapped.

Although, his parents tried their best to arrange artificial limbs for the boy but acute poverty has denied them the opportunity. I took him to National Institute of Rehabilitation Training And Research (Nirtar) at Olatpur in Cuttack two years ago but the doctors their demanded Rs.1 lakh for the purpose which I am not able to arrange till date, says his father.

  • Naga Naresh Karutura

'God has always been planning things for me'
July 28, 2008 
Shobha Warrier

Naga Naresh Karutura has just passed out of IIT Madras in Computer Science and has joined Google in Bangalore. You may ask, what's so special about this 21-year-old when there are hundreds of students passing out from various IITs and joining big companies like Google?

Naresh is special. His parents are illiterate. He has no legs and moves around in his powered wheel chair. Infact, when I could not locate his lab, he told me over the mobile phone, 'I will come and pick you up' and in no time, he was there to guide me. Ever smiling, optimistic and full of spirit; that is Naresh. He says, "God has always been planning things for me. That is why I feel I am lucky." Read why Naresh feels he is lucky.

An Inspiration

Childhood in a village

I spent the first seven years of my life in Teeparru, a small village in Andhra Pradesh, on the banks of the river Godavari. My father Prasad was a lorry driver and my mother Kumari, a house wife. Though they were illiterate, my parents instilled in me and my elder sister (Sirisha) the importance of studying.

Looking back, one thing that surprises me now is the way my father taught me when I was in the 1st and 2nd standards. My father would ask me questions from the text book, and I would answer them. At that time, I didn't know he could not read or write but to make me happy, he helped me in my studies!

Another memory that doesn't go away is the floods in the village and how I was carried on top of a buffalo by my uncle. I also remember plucking fruits from a tree that was full of thorns. I used to be very naughty, running around and playing all the time with my friends. I used to get a lot of scolding for disturbing the elders who slept in the afternoon. The moment they started scolding, I would run away to the fields. I also remember finishing my school work fast in class and sleeping on the teacher's lap.

January 11, 1993, the fateful day

On the January 11, 1993 when we had the sankranti holidays, my mother took my sister and me to a nearby village for a family function. From there we were to go with our grandmother to our native place. But my grandmother did not come there. As there were no buses that day, my mother took a lift in my father's friend's lorry. As there were many people in the lorry, he made me sit next to him, close to the door.

It was my fault. I fiddled with the door latch and it opened wide throwing me out. As I fell, my legs got cut by the iron rods protruding from the lorry. Nothing happened to me except scratches on my legs. The accident had happened just in front of a big private hospital but they refused to treat me saying it was an accident case. Then a police constable who was passing by took us to a government hospital. First I underwent an operation as my small intestine got twisted. The doctors also bandaged my legs. I was there for a week. When the doctors found that gangrene had developed and it had reached up to my knees, they asked my father to take me to a district hospital. There, the doctors scolded my parents a lot for neglecting the wounds and allowing the gangrene to develop. But what could my ignorant parents do? In no time, both my legs were amputated up to the hips. I remember waking up and asking my mother, where are my legs? I also remember that my mother cried when I asked the question. I was in the hospital for three months.

Life without legs

I don't think my life changed dramatically after I lost both my legs. Because all at home were doting on me, I was enjoying all the attention rather than pitying myself. I was happy that I got a lot of fruits and biscuits.

'I never wallowed in self-pity'

The day I reached my village, my house was flooded with curious people; all of them wanted to know how a boy without legs looked. But I was not bothered; I was happy to see so many of them coming to see me, especially my friends. All my friends saw to it that I was part of all the games they played; they carried me everywhere.

God's hand

I believe in God. I believe in destiny. I feel he plans everything for you. If not for the accident, we would not have moved from the village to Tanuku, a town. There I joined a missionary school, and my father built a house next to the school. Till the tenth standard, I studied in that school. If I had continued in Teeparu, I may not have studied after the 10th. I may have started working as a farmer or someone like that after my studies. I am sure God had other plans for me.

My sister, my friend

When the school was about to reopen, my parents moved from Teeparu to Tanuku, a town, and admitted both of us in a Missionary school. They decided to put my sister also in the same class though she is two years older. They thought she could take care of me if both of us were in the same class. My sister never complained. She would be there for everything. Many of my friends used to tell me, you are so lucky to have such a loving sister. There are many who do not care for their siblings. She carried me in the school for a few years and after a while, my friends took over the task. When I got the tricycle, my sister used to push me around in the school. My life, I would say, was normal, as everyone treated me like a normal kid. I never wallowed in self-pity. I was a happy boy and competed with others to be on top and the others also looked at me as a competitor.


I was inspired by two people when in school. My maths teacher Pramod Lal who encouraged me to participate in various local talent tests, and a brilliant boy called Chowdhary, who was my senior. When I came to know that he had joined Gowtham Junior College to prepare for IIT-JEE, it became my dream too. I was school first in 10th scoring 542/600. Because I topped in the state exams, Gowtham Junior College waived the fee for me. Pramod Sir's recommendation also helped. The fee was around Rs 50,000 per year, which my parents could never afford.

Moving to a residential school

Living in a residential school was a big change for me because till then my life centred around home and school and I had my parents and sister to take care of all my needs. It was the first time that I was interacting with society. It took one year for me to adjust to the new life. There, my inspiration was a boy called K K S Bhaskar who was in the top 10 in IIT-JEE exams. He used to come to our school to encourage us. Though my parents didn't know anything about Gowtham Junior School or IIT, they always saw to it that I was encouraged in whatever I wanted to do. If the results were good, they would praise me to the skies and if bad, they would try to see something good in that. They did not want me to feel bad. They are such wonderful supportive parents.

Life at IIT- Madras

Though my overall rank in the IIT-JEE was not that great (992), I was 4th in the physically handicapped category. So, I joined IIT, Madras to study Computer Science. Here, my role model was Karthik who was also my senior in school. I looked up to him during my years at IIT- Madras. He had asked for attached bathrooms for those with special needs before I came here itself. So, when I came here, the room had attached bath. He used to help me and guide me a lot when I was here. I evolved as a person in these four years, both academically and personally. It has been a great experience studying here. The people I was interacting with were so brilliant that I felt privileged to sit along with them in the class. Just by speaking to my lab mates, I gained a lot.

'There are more good people in society than bad ones'

Words are inadequate to express my gratitude to Prof Pandurangan and all my lab mates. All were simply great. I was sent to Boston along with four others for our internship by Prof Pandurangan. It was a great experience.

Joining Google R and D

I did not want to pursue PhD as I wanted my parents to take rest now. Morgan Stanley selected me first but I preferred Google because I wanted to work in pure computer science, algorithms and game theory.

I am lucky

Do you know why I say I am lucky? 
I get help from total strangers without me asking for it. Once after my second year at IIT, I with some of my friends was travelling in a train for a conference. We met a kind gentleman called Sundar in the train, and he has been taking care of my hostel fees from then on.

I have to mention about Jaipur foot. I had Jaipur foot when I was in 3rd standard. After two years, I stopped using them. As I had almost no stems on my legs, it was very tough to tie them to the body. I found walking with Jaipur foot very, very slow. Sitting also was a problem. I found my tricycle faster because I am one guy who wants to do things faster. One great thing about the hospital is, they don't think their role ends by just fixing the Jaipur foot; they arrange for livelihood for all. They asked me what help I needed from them. I told them at that time, if I got into an IIT, I needed financial help from them. So, from the day I joined IIT, Madras, my fees were taken care of by them. So, my education at the IIT was never a burden on my parents and they could take care of my sister's Nursing studies.

Surprise awaited me at IIT

After my first year, when I went home, two things happened here at the Institute without my knowledge. I got a letter from my department that they had arranged a lift and ramps at the department for me. It also said that if I came a bit early and checked whether it met with my requirements, it would be good.

Second surprise was, the Dean, Prof Idichandy and the Students General Secretary, Prasad had located a place that sold powered wheel chairs. The cost was Rs 55,000. What they did was, they did not buy the wheel chair; they gave me the money so that the wheel chair belonged to me and not the institute. My life changed after that. I felt free and independent. That's why I say I am lucky. God has planned things for me and takes care of me at every step.

The world is full of good people

I also feel if you are motivated and show some initiative, people around you will always help you. I also feel there are more good people in society than bad ones. I want all those who read this to feel that if Naresh can achieve something in life, you can too.

  • Sri Dalpat Rathod

He keeps wheels turning with eyes closed –Ahmedabad

Dalpat Rathod lost his eyes when he was just 15. It had all begun with a high fever accompanied by severe fits. His father, a daily wager, had rushed him to the hospital but by then the damage was done. He was cured of the fever but could not see again. "It was like being plunged into darkness. It was very depressing at first but I fought back with help of my parents," recounts Rathod.

The boy who used to love playing and cycling with his friends, was suddenly staring into darkness. And, he had just begun the journey of his life. His die-hard attitude and determination to achieve self-sufficiency drove him through this difficult period. The first break came when the owner of a cycle-repair shop in Shahpur, very close to his house, agreed to take him as an apprentice in his shop.

"The last scene that I remember seeing with my eyes was my father riding his cycle home from work. I cherish that sight and hold it dear. I loved cycling and it was only befitting that I take up this trade," said Rathod. After 'graduating ' from the Shahpur shop, Rathod shifted to another cycle repair shop where he was paid much better. Every day, he travelled all the way from Shahpur to Chandlodia.

It has been 30 years, since then. He had become one of the most trusted workers and used to be entrusted even with the purchase of cycle parts needed for repair. "I took three years to understand this trade. I can do all kinds of cycle repair work, right from dismantling a cycle to repairing punctures," said Rathod. He got married later and has four children now. His cycle repairing skills helped him earn a decent living.

Today he is 65. He has become quite well-known among cycle shops of the walled city. They all fondly refer to him as Dalpat dada. Just some months ago, the shop at Chandlodia closed down and he started operating from home, doing what he knows best - repairing cycles. Though his children are married and doing well for themselves he has not given up his favourite trade.

Source: The Times of India

  • Sri V. Sivanandam

I'm V. Sivanandam, working as an officer in Oriental Bank of Commerce, Tiruchchirappalli, Tamil Nadu. I became blind at the age of 3 due to some fever. I did my graduation in English literature. Afterwards, I underwent a training course in braille shorthand in A.I.C.B, Delhi. After completion of that course, I worked as shorthand instructor there itself. In May, 1993, I joined as English stenotypist in the Head Office of OBC, new Delhi. In 1995, I got transfer to Chennai. My work at HO was highly appreciated. At the time of my transfer, one of my officials told me, "If you go on transfer, we will become handicapped"! After reaching Chennai, I involved in the union activities. I had aeen an Executive Committee member of Oriental Bank of Commerce Employees' Union (Tamil Nadu and Pohdichery) for the period 10years. I was elected a member of executive committee for 3 consecutive terms i.e 1997, 2001 and 2005 in tough contests. In 1997, I contested independently and secured highest votes in that election. The requirement of my representation was felt by the large number of comrades in the union. I suggested some amendments/new provisions in the byelaws which were implemented effectively. So, my presence in the committee was considered danger by the rival group. In order to prevent my victory in the union elections, rival group issued notices and displayed fosters and threatened me to be away from the union activities. But I did not mind of those. Besides, I also concentrated in my career. In this line, in 1998, I applied for the officers promotion test. But it was rejected by the bank without proper reasons which was not opposed by me. In 2001 and 2003, I appeared for the promotion tests without proper preparation. But in 2005, I passed the test. I was called for the interview also. At last, I was rejected due to the short of 1 mark to obtain a rank. But, in the promotion test of 2007, I scored 62/80 marks and stood at 58th rank overall. And also, I was the only candidate, who cleared the promotion test in the whole Chennai Region. Amongst all these happenings, my marriage took place in 1998. Now I have 1 son namely Gowtham, studying at 5th class.