Impairments are seen as a big disability; usually only a few people have the courage to break through the negativity and pursue their dreams. The tale of Shrikant Bolla, the first international blind student in Brain and Cognitive Science and Business at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who is the founder of Bollant Industries, inspired millions. In a similar but vein, here are some stories of a few bravehearts who have fought their visual impairment to start their own self-employment journey as independent individuals.
Manoj Ajmera, physiotherapist:
Ajmera was not born visually impaired, but saw his vision fade away when he was in 12th grade due to the glaucoma he developed during his childhood. He has a graduate degree in Commerce from Ahmedabad University and has learned physiotherapy from the Blind Peoples Association, Ahmedabad, where he has also served as head of the OPD department for 5 years.
Ajmera explains, “The biggest hurdle was when I had to give my exams through the assistance of a helper. Convincing people that I can treat them with utmost care just like any other doctor was also a task.” But he persevered and has been running his own clinic for 25 years.
Krunal Shastri, kathakar:
Shastri was born with a visual impairment; his mother was informed about this 10 days after his birth. However, these hurdles did not crush their spirit. Being born in a spiritual household, Shastri was well-versed with the stories of the Gods and legends since his childhood, and this where his interest in the religious world began.
He began his career at the age of 12 as a kathakar, when he recited the Ram Charitra Manas as his first katha. He won a national award in 2017. Shashtri pursued a BA in Sanskrit Sahitya from Bhagvat Vidhyapeeth, MMA, in the Puranas and Dharma Shastra. He explains, “My parents have been a pillar of strength for me over the years. My future goals are to do kathas and organize social programmes for visually impaired children.”
Ashwin Thakkar, Food Counter operator:
Thakkar was born blind and did his schooling from the Blind People’s Association in Vastrapur. He was employed at Cama hotel in Sabarmati as a telephone operator/receptionist, until the pandemic, when he was forced to turn entrepreneur. Thakkar explains, “Once the hotel shut down during the pandemic, some friends of mine suggested I get into the mango business or open a food stall. After that, I met Dr Nitin suman Shah, who gave me very good economic support and with that encouragement, I set up this stall that sells snacks like fafda and dhokla.” Tahkkar’s ambition is to own a shop of his own.
Kalpesh Trivedi, shop owner :
Trivedi was not born blind but lost his vision when he was three years old in an accident. He injured one eye and has impaired vision in the second due to a failed cataract surgery. He was able to keep up with regular schooling till the 7th grade, and after that took admission in a Blind School at Navrangpura. Here, he studied an electric motor winding course and a receptionist/ telephone operator course.
Trivedi completed his graduation in 1998 from HK Arts College. He says, “For the last 22 years I’ve been working at a dental laboratory in Himmatnagar as a courier man. I used to travel between Ahmedabad and Himmatnagar every day. Recently, a friend of mine began his Gruh Udyog business, so I tied up with him. Now that the business is going well, I plan to expand.”
Trivedi’s ambition is to help blind children by teaching them business and getting them to join him and provide them with a platform through his bands. He has also organized many vocational trips for blind children.