When he finds a student short on self-belief, English professor V. Vijayalayan tells him his life story
Life is 10 per cent what you make it and 90 percent how you take it – Irving Berlin.
This line perfectly describes the life journey of 32-year-old V. Vijayalayan, a professor of English in Vivekananda College, Mylapore.
He lost his vision as a school boy, but Vijayalayan went on to complete under- and post-graduate degrees in English and B.Ed with flying colours. His academic achievement is crowned by an M Phil – only for now. He is pursuing a doctorate.
Vijayalayan was born with a rare disease called Glaucoma that leads to damage of the optic nerve. He had to undergo surgery at the age of 4. “The doctors managed to fix my eyes. While my left eye was dysfunctional, I could see partially through my right eye. I went to a regular school till class tenth. I got into a fight with a classmate, which damaged my right eye,” he says.
He went through an emergency surgery, which proved a failure. And, over the years, he lost his vision completely. “There was a time when I had to spend almost a year at home. I gave in to self-pity: I thought I was the only person in the world cursed with this condition till I joined St. Louis School for the Deaf and the Blind. At this school, I finished my eleventh and twelveth. I noticed that many other visually impaired children faced greater hardships,” says Vijayalayan. He realised he had many things going for him, including parents who stood by him.
Due to the medical condition, Vijayalayan was going to lose his eyesight sooner or later. He believes having had to face the problem early was a blessing in disguise. “If I had lost my vision while at college or later would have made it difficult for me to accept it,” he says.
But the path was anything but easy. He still had to deal with gnawing self-doubts and often survive on the encouragement provided by family and friends. Today, having crossed many hurdles, he has his life story to tell those of his students that are short on confidence and self-belief. “When faced with difficulties, people should learn to hang in there. I applied for a regular posting, and was denied twice. When I thought I had to settle for an underpaying job as a management staff, I was offered a professor’s post,” says Vijayalayan, who started his career as a professor in Loyola College.
(A column about people who have beat the odds and won)