Children of the same god

Jun 27, 2012, 10:59 IST | Dhara Vora

If Helen Keller were alive today, she would have smiled at the manner in which these two individuals, both visually challenged, have led their lives. As we remember this champion fighter for the blind and deaf on her 132nd birth anniversary, let's doff our hats to these bravehearts. Dhara Vora listens in to their stories of courage

Joaquim Rapose, {52, Bank Clerk}
He was born blind but that never stopped him from leading a normal life and working hard for his family. Rapose studied in a regular school since his eight standard and applied for a job at the Bank of India (BOI) when he was in the11th standard. “I come from a lower middle-class family, and so I wanted to earn for my family. That’s why I applied for the job. Of the several candidates who had applied, I got selected. I was a student of SIES College in Sion. In order to make it in time for my lectures, I would have to leave my home in Malad at five in the morning. After class, I would have to rush to office. This got very tiring and finally, I shifted to Gokhale Night College in Borivali, to keep my job,” says Rapose. For his graduation, he shifted to MVLU College in Andheri. While still at MVLU, he met his future wife Padmavati. They got married right after their graduation.

“Our professor never realised that there was something fishy going on between us,” recalls Rapose. The couple have a son and daughter (who is an MBA from Wales University); both children with normal vision. Rapose graduated in Political Science and Economics and is also a computer literate. He uses the computer with the help of the software called Job Access With Speech (JAWS). Currently, Rapose works in the clerical department at BOI. “I have cleared the examination for promotion thrice in a merit list without any reservation. However, during the interview round, they don’t select me. I am still fighting against it,” he shares. Rapose also works with the National Association for the Blind (NAB) and is the General Secretary with the organisation Blind Persons Association. Through these two organisations, he helps create audio books for students in various languages, works towards providing scholarships for children of visually challenged parents and also helps promote sports amongst the visually challenged.

Kanchan Pamnani, {46, Advocate and solicitor}
“People come to this city from villages and fight the system and survive. They are an inspiration to me. I had the support of my parents and education to fall back on; I didn’t have to walk for miles, for basic amenities. Though I had my own agni parikshas (trying times), there are others who are less fortunate than me and inspite of their visual disability, some women run homes, keep things in order and have children to look after. They inspire me,” says the advocate and solicitor, Kanchan Pamnani. Pamnani was born with low vision, and lost her vision slowly, later through the years. However, her zest for life can be felt even through the phone, where she speaks rapidly and is full of words and enthusiasm. 

She was detected with congenital cataract when she was three months old and had to go through several surgeries for it as well as for retinal detachment during the later years. Pamnani was a student at Walsingham High School where she was always a first bencher because of her vision. Later, she completed a degree in Law from Government Law College and went on to do her Masters degree, Solicitor’s course from Bombay Incorporated Law Society and Qualified Lawyers Transfer Test from The Law Society, England. Pamnani mainly works for Corporate and Disability Law and has been instrumental in working towards changing several policies pertaining to the law. She also pursues an interest in photography and has worked with the group, Blind With Camera. “I can travel in trains without assistance; I only need help while getting down on the platform. Usually, I have to look for people to help me with it, but once on my way back from Pune, a person offered to help me alight from the train and even helped me hail a taxi (coincidently, he was MiDDAY’s Tariq Ansari who was on his way back from launching the Pune edition). We need more such people in the city,” she reminds us.

InSight by Miriam Batliwala
She began to lose her eyesight when she was 12, but Miriam Batliwala went on to overcome her disability to become a yoga instructor, dancer, swimmer and golfer, along with successfully dabbling the roles of wife and mother. With the hope of inspiring others, she penned down the details of her journey, her joy and struggles in an autobiographical account titled InSight.

InSight, Miriam Batliwala, Crossover Publications, Rs 225, Available at bookstores

The book traces her struggle to accept what was happening to her, while recounting details of how she went from one doctor to another and one healer to another, to find a solution till she accepted her fate and embraced life with renewed enthusiasm. She recounts funny anecdotes and experiences that her family underwent, as she throws light on what they went through. Today, she is a trustee of the HIMS Botawala Charities in Mumbai, which runs a school for 1,000 children in Rander, in Gujarat, and DM Girls’ Orphanage Trust in Mumbai, which houses and educates underprivileged girls.

Blind torch bearers carry London 2012 Olympics flame
Blind since he was 17, British ultra runner Simon Wheatcroft will use the RunKeeper app to carry the London 2012 Olympic torch. Meawhile, another British national, soldier Simon Brown, who lost his vision when he was struck by a sniper five years ago, in Iraq, had carried the torch a couple of days ago.

About Helen Keller
American author and activist Helen Keller (June 27, 1880 - June 1, 1968) was discovered to be deaf and blind when she was barely 19 months. The Keller family contacted Alexander Graham Bell who was known then for his work for deaf children. He suggested that they connect with the Perkins Institute for the Blind.

It was here that she met with her instructor Anne Sullivan, who was also blind. Thus began a 49-year-old between teacher and student. Keller made a huge impact as an author, activist and lecturer who was the first deaf/blind person to graduate from college. She remains a tireless advocate and inspiration for people with disabilities and numerous other causes. 

They saw the world just like us
1) Stevie Wonder, musician
2) Ray Charles, musician and pianist
3) Joseph Pulitzer, publisher and writer
4) St Paul, apostle of Jesus
5) Franklin D Roosevelt, 32nd American president
6) Claude Monet, French Impressionalist painter

Singer Stevie Wonder performs on stage during the Diamond Jubilee concert at Buckingham Palace on June 4, 2012 in London, England. Pic/Getty Images

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