I was a premature baby. On August 7, 1996, I was born in the sixth month of my mother’s pregnancy. My weight was only 250 grams. Would I survive? My family members were tense. Yes, I survived; spending three months in an incubator.
What hadn’t got detected immediately was my blindness. Yes, I was visually challenged since my birth. But it got detected only when I was taken to a nursery for admission.
I was taken to Chennai’s Sankara Nethralaya and my eyes were operated on. But it led to no improvement.
I don’t remember whether or how I came to terms with the fact that I wouldn’t be able to see the world. As my mother now tells me, I was fond of touching things. Probably, that’s how I started exploring the world.
Then I went to a school for the visually challenged at RK Puram. Till the last day of my 12th grade, my mother attended classes every day with me. First, I was made to learn Braille. For mathematics, I started working on the Taylor frame. I started using Perkins Braille in which I had to write by pressing buttons. I was given long dictations so that my speed improved. My first essay won an award from the Ministry of Environment and Forest.
So, should I continue in a school meant for the specially abled? Or, was I ready for a regular school? This was the toughest decision for my family, I presume.
And they took the tougher option.
No, my life never stopped for a moment. (Photo: Twitter)
I went to Delhi Public School RK Puram after a long battle for admission.
It was difficult for me to communicate with other students because I didn’t develop much of language skills. The reason I am telling you this is that special schools need to emphasize on this issue.
But thanks to my parents and teachers, my language skills improved - and I became the head boy of my class.
But how would my teachers check my work? They didn’t know Braille.
My father brought my first computer to school. It was at a secluded place in the classroom. Yes, I was alone. No one used to sit with me. I used to tell myself that I came here for studies. Studies were my friends.
But all books were in printed forms. My brothers used to dictate those texts to me. And I used to type fast. This later helped me winning a gold medal at the Paralympics held in Mumbai in 2006. Later, some NGOs helped me to convert books into Braille format.
Another challenge for me during my school education was when I wanted to sit for competitive examinations. My family members and teachers stood by me.
After I completed my school education, I had to take coaching for my law entrances. I went from one coaching institute to another — only to be refused repeatedly.
Why don’t I see enough coaching institutes encouraging visually challenged students?
I have now reached the final year of my law studies. I chose to take up law because law not only acts as a cure to our problems - it empowers us as well.
I believe that my family has been a constant source of my strength in my journey. Not only they have empowered me but constantly urge me to perform to the best of my abilities.
I would like to recall some of the families which assisted their children with special abilities and they are performing exceptionally well in their own fields. My family also took guidance from these families from time and time as we were having regular interaction with these families.
Through this article, I would be requesting persons with special challenges and their families to move hand in hand with each other, so that what society might think of as a disability can be turned into an ability.
Nothing can stop you.
Accept, respect and empower each other.