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Powered by their vision

Odds don't deter these people. They have managed to shine in their professions despite their disabilities

If your intentions are good and strong your dream will come true — Govinda Krishnan, Founder, Nethrodaya.

THEY LACK eyesight. But their insight and inspiring vision of making it big in their chosen profession quite well makes up for it; their spirits and their lives are charged up by die-hard dreams. They can't see the world around, but they perceive, execute and excel in their professions in a manner that has been inspiring everybody around them. Visual impairment can be tough, but the gritty among them have shown the world that they can be winners. In fact, quite a few visually challenged persons have made it big in their professions, despite the odds, even in professions that are traditionally supposed to require eyesight, such as academics and law. Here are the stories of such real life heroes, stories which give us the courage to pursue our own dreams.

Govinda Krishnan

Founder, Nethrodaya

Govinda Krishnan, `Gopi' to friends, shatters all clichés about the phrase, `the blind leading the blind'. Nethrodaya, the NGO that this visually challenged young man started a few years back, today grooms and takes care of dozens of visually challenged boys from villages, who have come to the city to pursue their dreams. The NGO campaigns to get visually challenged students admitted to regular schools, runs a medical helpline that assists the visually challenged in getting medicare, among other things. As a young boy, Gopi had found it difficult to come to terms with the fact that he had a problem. "It was when I failed the Standard X exams for the third time that I finally accepted my `low-vision and partially blind' medical condition and subsequently appeared for the exam in the blind category, with the help of a scribe." Subsequent to a B.A. and an M.A. in literature, Gopi obtained a P.G. Diploma in Social Entrepreneurship, where his project work was a survey on the lives of blind beggars. "I discovered that a great number of them were graduates! That triggered the vision of an organisation that would support and groom visually challenged students and help them find jobs," says Gopi. A mature Gopi now calls his visual challenge "a blessing in disguise." "It is only because of this that I have been inspired to start something monumental like Nethrodaya," he says. That perhaps is what makes his organisation and its crusades work, apart from hard work and sheer perseverance. Says Gopi: "If your intentions are good and strong, your dream will come true."

Dipti Bhatia

Chief Coordinator, Inclusion Cell, Vidyasagar.

What irks me a is people see only what a challenged person is unable to do, not what he is able to — Dipti Bhatia, Chief Coordinator, Inclusion Cell, Vidyasagar

"Let us try it out for a month," young Dipti Bhatia had suggested to the correspondent at Vidyodaya Higher Secondary School, when she found the admission panel sceptical about her ability to cope with education in a regular school. Several years later, Dipti has obtained her M.Phil in History from Ethiraj College, and with flying colours, and is now the chief coordinator, Inclusion Cell, at the NGO Vidya Sagar. She has cajoled, encouraged, convinced and facilitated the integration of scores of challenged students into mainstream schools. It is this `let's try it' attitude that has stood Dipti in good stead all along and has helped her boldly plunge into endeavours that others were diffident about. For instance, when the management of a city school had refused to admit a visually challenged student to their school saying `the classroom is on the second floor, how will this spastic child reach it', Dipti's refrain was, "if he can't climb up to the classroom, let the class come down." My medical condition doesn't really bother me, she says. "What irks me is the fact that people see only what a challenged person is unable to do, and not what he is able to do," she says, adding, "in this world of high technology, nothing is impossible."

Venkata Krishnan

Advocate, Madras High Court

I enjoy solving other people's problems. — Venkata Krishnan, Advocate, Madras High Court

When visually challenged Venkata Krishnan argues a point of law at the Madras High Court today, he only has to mention the page or section of judgment, and judges defer to him, read the judgment and come back to him, and the case continues. That is the level of credibility he has built for himself. Venkata Krishnan has been a source of strength and object of admiration, not an object of pity, all through his life. He stood among the top three in the law entrance exams in 1995, and has a flourishing practice today, with his name figuring in the legal panels of leading firms such as New India Assurance Company and Orion Advisory Service. His father had earlier audiotaped his lessons for him, as a child. Today, he relies on voice reading software and his dedicated juniors and friends for browsing through voluminous legal proceedings. "I felt curbed, as a youngster, as travelling was a big challenge," is the most he says about his trauma. "Now I am too busy to think of that," he adds. Misfortune has made him a better, rather than a bitter person. "I enjoy solving other people's problems," Venkata Krishnan says, and no wonder he is so good at his profession.

Sushma Agarwal

Mathematics Lecturer and Research Scholar

No student of the Ramanujan Institute of Advanced Studies in Mathematics likes to miss her lectures. That is because, Sushma Agarwal, senior lecturer at the institute is one of the experts in the country on the subject of `Functional Analysis', a hot subject today. In fact, Sushma has been invited by prestigious universities in the U.S. to give presentations. How did she make it so far? "Given the opportunity, any disabled person can go far in their profession," says Sushma, wishing that the authorities and managements of various institutions shed their inhibitions and open the door to disabled persons, giving them a fair chance. Her success has not been without struggles. After finishing B.Sc. Mathematics, Sushma spent two years at home, unsure of what to do further. "Then I decided enough was enough and took the plunge and applied for M.Sc. Mathematics from the nearest college (that was 32 km away from her home in Bhusawal, a town in Maharashtra), and followed it up with a PhD from IIT Madras. "I never thought of the future in such terms, but just lived the `todays'," she says. "Experience has shown me that when misfortune strikes a person, other factors will emerge as compensations. We need to tap them. For instance, people say I have a great memory and concentration," she shares.

What irks me is people see only what a challenged person is unable to do, not what

he is able to

- Dipti Bhatia,

Chief Coordinator, Inclusion Cell, Vidyasagar


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