A visionary without sight

She was born with poor vision, and gradually lost her eyesight, but such setbacks were mere hurdles along the way for Dr Kalpana Kharade as she scaled one professional height after another. Today, she is an associate professor, a PhD guide and vice principal of K J Somaiya Comprehensive College of Edu-cation, Training and Research.

 Dr Kharade
Gifted: Dr Kharade addresses her students. Pic/Anita Anand

At age 13, Kharade couldn’t see her school blackboard. She was told that she was suffering from Retinitis Pigmentosa, a condition that would cause her to gradually lose vision.

Her diminishing vision did not stop Kharade from pursuing studies. In 1975, she completed her SSC and followed it up with a D Ed in 1977. She then taught in schools like Mulund Vidyamandir, Raje Shivaji Education Society in Dadar, and Mumbai Municipal Corporation School in Ghatkopar.

In 1979, she went to Moscow to enlist herself for an experiment at a hospital there, hoping for a cure. The treatment failed to cure her completely, but she decided to stay on and pursue further studies.

“My father gave up and returned to Mumbai. I decided to study there and complete my graduation and post-graduation. I got a scholarship from Moscow University and completed my MA (Ed), later obtained my PhD in 1991.”

Upon my return, I paid a visit to my teachers at Somaiya College where I had completed my D Ed. They asked me to apply for a job. I joined the faculty as senior lecturer in 1991 and in 2006 I was appointed vice principal.”

Kharade never faced problems teaching, as she used her other senses to maintain discipline and instruct her students. Thanks to innovations in technology, she now uses tools like PowerPoint. At present Kharade is recognised PhD guide, three students having registered under her for the programme.

Students speak
Sangeeta Verma, said, “It is difficult to describe such a towering personality in one word. My teacher is truly an inspiration. She uses her power of expression to explain concepts to us.”

Indu Sharma said, “She is an amazing teacher and guide. We were blessed to have a teacher like her who inspired us by using her own life as an example.”

Awards and offices
2002: Neelam Kanga Award from the National Association for the Blind, for academic excellence.
2004: Award from Blind Men’s Association for academic excellence, at the fifth all-India conference for blind women at Amrawati
2007: Felicitated by AIASHA International for the academic achievements
Dr Kharade is a member of the committee on the Status of Blind Women, a guest speaker at the National Association for the Blind (NAB) and resource person for the IGNOU and YCMOU graduate education programmes.

Retinitis Pigmentosa
A condition that causes degeneration of the retina. It is manifested by night blindness and gradual loss of peripheral vision, eventually resulting in tunnel vision or total blindness. 

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