” I am blind, not unfortunate!”
Rajesh Asudhani was born blind. 100% blind. Due to a genetic disorder that affects his optic nerve, so even an eye donation can’t help him.
It was very ironical because Rajesh’s parents Laxmi and Hardayaldas thought they had found a ” cure” by way of a Hakim’s medicine which had resulted in 2 sighted children after 4 blind ones. Rajesh and his twin sister were the last of the lot. She’s sighted, he is blind!
” Probably the Hakim’s dose was insufficient for twins? ” He makes a guess.
So this was a family of migrants from Sindh, Pakistan, very poor, just running a ‘ Manihari shop’ ( general stores) to make ends meet.
And they had to tend to 8 children, 5 of them blind! “We had money problems, social isolation… but never lack of love or support in getting good education.
Instead of putting us in the Blind school hostel, which would have made life easy for them, my grandmother, and later my mother would take us to school by bus, wait with us, and bring us back.” School was 10 kms away from home.
No hostel for our kids, ” wahan ghar jaise pyar thodi na milega?” The parents decided.
Getting an education when you are blind is tough. Specially in India, even today.
” Braille books were available only till Class 7th and that too in Marathi. My 2 normal sisters recorded thousands of books for us on audiotapes so we could study listening to them”.
Today, 2 of the eldest brothers are Professors in well known colleges, and Rajesh is an AGM in Reserve bank of India.
NOT JUST EDUCATED BUT GOLD MEDALISTS
It was a proud moment for Laxmi Asudhani as she accompanied her youngest son to the dais in the convocation where he got the maximum number of Gold medals (13) in his LLB. He got 6 later for MA in English. Thus 19 in all. He holds the Limca book of records for highest number of gold medals in India!
COULDN’T GET JOB OF HIS DREAMS
Despite this sterling achievement he couldn’t get a teaching job in the same university that granted him the medals! Bias against his blindness came in the way..
“How can you teach if you cannot see? How will your students connect with you?”
He tried to explain MUAA…the way it could be done. It was Greek and Latin for them.
WHAT IS MUAA?
M stands for manual aid. Human assistance. U for universal design, A for assisted technology and A for accesity.
” Every physically challenged person should get these – not as charity, but as a right. We are making some progress but not enough” rules Rajesh.
PRESIDENT’S AWARDEE NOW!
His personal life though has progressed with unimaginable success. On 3rd December Nagpurian Rajesh Asudhani is to be awarded as a ” Role Model” by the President of India. On the World disability Day. It’s a National Award for Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities. Granted by the Ministry of Social Justice.
” Have come a long way from being an announcer with Railways”
When his dreamt of academic career didn’t materialize Rajesh began giving Entrance exams. For Railways, for banks etc.
The first job he got was as Announcer at the Kanpur Railway station. ” With all my qualifications I could only get a Grade 3 job in the Railways…just making announcements! But I had to work. I was 25. How long could I stay at home?”
NANDA CAME INTO HIS LIFE
Soon after he began working , his eldest bhabhi sought to introduce him to a girl she knew with a view of marriage.
” Arranged marriage?! That was another of my dreams shattered. I so wanted to have a Love Marriage. I had many girls as friends, I had even proposed to some, but all I got was a No.”
Nanda had to face opposition from her family too, because she came from a Maharashtrian family in Chimur and more than his blindness Rajesh being Sindhi was a problem!
But Nanda was educated, an MSW. She had been exposed to blindness since her cousin had turned blind at a very young age.
” I saw how my cousin still lived a full and happy life…its your outlook and attitude that matter” she says.
But right then , Rajesh was full of an egoistic attitude. ” I will not travel to meet the girl or her family. Let them come to meet me!” Nanda traveled to Rajesh’s brother’s place 50 kms away.
After talking with her Rajesh asked bluntly ” you have Masters in Social work. Are you willing to marry me as social work?” ” No” replied she. ” I will marry you because I am confident I will have a good life with you!”
This same ” I don’t want your pity” attitude got Rajesh a job with RBI soon after marriage.
He had passed the written exams with flying colours yet the committee interviewing him was skeptical.
” You are unfortunate in being born blind…..” began one the questioners but Rajesh cut him off there.
” Sir! Who are you to determine whether I am fortunate or unfortunate? I was fortunate to be born into a very nice loving family. I have done excellently well academically. So let me decide whether I am fortunate or not!”
The Dy Governor of RBI was also there for the interviews. The board was so impressed he landed the job as a junior officer.
Today he is AGM. Apart from a busy job he also runs two NGOs to help blind students. Hundreds have benefited from his coaching and practical help.
Yet the social discrimination continues…
” I am a senior bank officer, yet opening a bank account wasn’t easy for me..when I go to an ATM to withdraw cash I still hear remarks from security guards like ‘ isko ATM card kisne de diya?
Photos and write up – Sunita Mudaliar, Executive Editor