Unsung Heroes

Yentha Heroes are not necessarily celebrities. Our hero is a person who brings a smile to our lives or who makes a difference in our neighbourhood. Suggest a hero and Yentha will do the rest. Trust us. Do you know anybody like this? Or a story waiting to be told?
   
 
A Hero - Being Or Not Being Blind

Balaraman P is a B1 grade blind man, which in layman terms mean that he is totally blind. He works as a computer training officer at an NGO 'Chakshumathy'. Till the age of ten, Balaraman retained some remote rays of vision in his eyes after most of it had been lost from birth. At ten, Balaraman  suddenly turned totally blind.

“My brother's fingers got into my eye while we were playing,” Balaraman tells with a pleasant smile.

 

 

 

He probably did not realise that what he had just said, would be considered as the greatest tragedy by the rest of the world that could see.

Balaraman is 42 years of age. He studied till the seventh standard at the Government School for the Visually Impaired at Jagathy. Then he completed high school at SMV School and passed his tenth standard in the first class. After his pre-degree form Arts College, he enrolled for a degree course in History at the same college. However, he decided to stop it midway.

“I had great difficulty in following the course. There were neither text books in Braille script nor  audio texts. With no scope left for me,  I decided it was better to quit and spend my energy somewhere else.”

 

Balaraman is not afraid to tell the truth about what he thinks now about having quit then.

“If I had a degree certificate with me I could have reached a higher position than where I am now.”

And he also believes in the motto of it being 'never too late to start anew'.

“I have joined for a BA English Literature course at the Kerala University. Now I have audio textbooks. It might be a little too late but I want to give it a try nevertheless.”

 

 

 

 

After quitting college, Balaraman spent many years working in a telephone booth near Museum Police Station. His job was just to sit there, collect money and tpush by one more day in his visionless life.

“People would think it is very generous of someone to give a blind person a job so that he can earn a living. But giving a job that requires you to sit idle in a telephone booth the entire day is the worst job for one with an eager mind and body. Just because someone is blind, it does not mean that he is only good for such jobs. Instead of helping, it is in truth, rather degrading.”

With his work giving him hardly any sortsatisfaction, Balaraman decided to make up for it with his recreational life. He started playing chess, a game at which he soon became excellent. First he beat his friends, then members of clubs, organistions, then went on to become district champion,, state champion and even went on to beat opponents from other countries. Balaraman is now a 5 time state champion, one time south zone champion, has been placed 7th in the National Tournament and 13th in the continent of Asia in 2004.

“Keep in mind that we blind people are at a disadvantage. Our national champion equals the state champion in your world,” Balaraman said with a smile.

His daily visits to the club brought him many new acquaintances and through one of them he learned about a new software meant to aid blind people to use the internet. Balaraman now saw the opening he had been waiting for.

“It was very tough. There wasn't anyone I could approach for guidance. It took me a while, but eventually I did manage to master the entire Window operations.”

 

 

 

A blind man who can operate a computer is not a ‘blind’ man at all in the technology spurred world we live in. A job came seeking Balaraman, for training children from different parts of the state.

“I personally know 90% of the blind people who use computers in Kerala; they are either my students or the students of my students.”

Balaraman is all gratitude for the progress technology has made in recent years.

“Technology has favored us blind people a lot. I could never have had a life like this a couple of decades back.”

At 'Chakshumathy', Balaraman is also involved with preparing audio books which the blind can 'read' by hearing them on a player.

“They need to read books, learn languages, get educated and gain knowledge. That is the best thing they could do with their lives. More than anyone else, the greatest help someone blind can have is being given the ability to help himself. Do you know how many crores of rupees are stolen each year from blind people by offering them 'special treatments' and immediate power of vision? Most by-birth blindness is incurable.  Yes, it is disappointing, but in no way a life arresting thing; life is still great even being blind, I know that for a fact.”

Balaraman lives with his family consisting of his wife and two children. His wife is partially blind; they met each other at work and marriage soon followed. How did he judge the beauty of his woman?

 

 

 

 

“There is a way minds interact with each other, plus the way they talk and the way they move around; all these tell a lot about the person. I think we are better off compared to you on that department, I think we could judge people more accurately since disguising appearances can't fool us.”

Balaraman is a busy man at 'Chakshumathy'. People walk in to see him regularly, students want to be guided and in between he has several phone calls to attend to. Before meeting him, I had asked him for directions to 'Chakshumathy' and Balaraman had given me the instructions over the phone. It was only after I got there, without any difficulty  that it struck me that I was there to meet a blind man. When I left, he was sitting, well dressed and composed, behind a computer and doing his work and this time I had to force myself to remember that Balaraman was a man who happened to be blind.

P Balaraman is the mentor and the Chief Training Officer of the NGO 'Chakshumathy' and is Yentha's unsung hero of the week. 

 
Posted By : Deepa, On Oct 12, 2011 12:37:02 PM
 
 
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Dear Bala, I greatly appreciate your hard work and the fire on your efforts to help others. May God Bless you... I wish to see more and more people to be your student and student of your student with computer savvy. Nanni Chetta.
Raja Kimuyu Kador Lazorn, on Dec 04, 2011 02:07:52 PM
 
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