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Blindness No Bar in The Path of Education

Editor's Note: Editor's Note: The following article is re-printed from the Times of India, August 17, 2000.

It's late evening and the students have since long abandoned the Ruparel college campus. Slowly and confidently, Sandesh Narayane and Anjali Gujrathi find their way towards the Arts faculty building of the college, guiding each other, clutching their red and white canes. The 26-year-old psychotherapists are attending a short-term course in Ayurveda, organized by the Mumbai University.

Sandesh, a resident of Kurla, has already completed a short-term training in naturopathy after his physiotherapy course in Ahmedabad. He says, "It's not that either of us is too health-conscious, but we're just interested and curious to learn about the various systems of health care." Anjali who has worked as a psychotherapist in a school for mentally challenged kids in Nasik before coming to Mumbai also has a curious mind for medical studies. "If it were possible, I would have loved to take up full-time studies in Ayurveda medicines. But unfortunately, there are no such opportunities for visually challenged persons, though quite a few of us have a strong desire to learn and have the ability too," she adds wistfully.

Anjali has had a problem with her vision since she was in school, but she always thought that her hazy vision was normal. "I stayed in a remote place in Nasik where the awareness level was not much. Even today, people in our village don't know the significance of the red and white cane," she says.

But it's not the attitude of the ignorant folk as much as the indifference of the educated that they find condescending. Recalling how a young blind boy was denied admission to the state typewriting test, Sandesh says that handicapped persons are being grossly discriminated against by society. "Why should a visually challenged person be sidelined solely due to his or her impairment?" he asks, adding, "Handicapped persons have a lot of potential and we can't be tossed aside especially when we are willing to take up challenges."

Anjali echoes his view. "Our powers-that-be should make a serious and sincere effort to help handicapped persons. Merely reserving seats for us in buses and trains is not enough. What we need is jobs. We want to earn our living with self-respect and dignity," she declares.

The duo told BT that they feel let down especially while crossing the road or because they are unable to read due to lack of reading material for the blind. "At times we have to wait to cross a junction for hours on end, and nobody even offers a helping hand. Moreover, there isn't enough Braille literature available due to which our reading activity is hampered a great deal. But our grit and determination to live life to the full helps to overcome these moments which then seem quite trivial in comparison," says Sandesh.

The young man though born blind has completed his MA in Philosophy before qualifying as a physiotherapist. "This is largely due to the support and encouragement which I received from my family. I have never been made to feel like a lesser individual," he recounts.

In fact, they firmly believe that they are at par with others.

"We've completed our professional education competing with other able-bodied individuals.

Today, we are undergoing the Ayurveda study course with others who are considered normal,"

states Anjali, adding, 'But our prospects are hampered not due to our inability, but due to a lack of vision on society's part. Just give an opportunity and we'll prove our worth."

Calvin And Hobbes Quotes To Live By

-I find my life is a lot easier the lower I keep everyone's expectation!

-Life's disappointments are harder to take when you don't know any swear words.

-Nothing helps a bad mood like spreading it around.

-A good compromise leaves everybody mad.

-It's not denial. I'm just selective about the reality I accept.

-I've been good all day so far.

-Childhood is short and maturity is forever.

-People pay more attention to you when they think you're up to something

-Things are never quite as scary when you've got a best friend.

-I'd explain it, but there's a lot of math.

-I've got to start listening to those quiet, nagging doubts.

-It's that moment of dawning comprehension I live for,

-Nothing I do is my fault.

-I'm learning real skills that I can apply throughout the rest of my life

Procrastinating and rationalizing.

I liked things better when I didn't understand them.