Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Dr. MA S Vaswani - Esha Achiever of the Month - Guest post by Sandeep Koul

Sandeep Koul has interviewed the second Esha Achiever for the Month too. :)
This is the interview, in QnA format.
Question :  “Tell me the story of your life in your own  Words.”

Answer : I was born in 1975 in a poor Sindhi family. I am the ninth child of my parents. I lost eyesight at the age of 2. But I was sustained by my
loving parents and siblings. I never felt the absence of sight. I played with sighted children and participated in all games. I used to bicycle with others in the neighborhood.

My parents had no idea about the education of blind. I could attend school at the age of ten. I could speak only Sindhi and Hindi languages but blind school at Nagpur imparts education only in Marathi medium. I could not speak Marathi so I had to learn Marathi to study
in the school. In spite of language barrier I always secured first rank in the class. The school was located ten K.M. from home and I had to travel daily to attend the school.

From 8th standard I joined an English medium school located only one K.M. from home. The text books of English medium are not available in Braille so I had to depend on my sisters and sisters in law for reading. Besides I had to take extensive notes in Braille.

In 1994 I achieved spectacular success in S.S.C. exam and stood first leaving behind all the sighted counterparts. However, this success did not come smoothly. I was marked absent for Chemistry paper and did not figure in the merit list. Later my answer paper was found and I had scored full marks in Chemistry. This brought my total scored to 662 out of 700 and I jumped to the top of merit list.

I repeated the same performance in H.S.C. exam and stood first in the merit list of Arts Faculty students. I was awarded The Indus Ind Merit
cum Means Scholarship from 1996 to 1999.


I had always cherished the dream of becoming a lawyer. But after teaching in coaching classes I discovered that teaching was my
passion. However, I began to seek employment before completing education.  I applied for the post of L.D.C. and was selected. I was
appointed in Pune and had to leave hometown Nagpur in 1999 after completing B.A. I stayed alone in Pune and continued studies at Pune University as an external student. I did not give up the dream of becoming a lecturer and acquired the necessary qualification. In spite of working full time in the office I completed M.A. in English in 2002 with first class. Next year (2003) I passed The State Eligibility test for lectureship in the very first attempt.
 My interest is not
restricted to studies only. I have successfully participated in extra
curricular activities like Chess, debate, elocution, quiz, essay
writing and poetry composition. I also play tabla.
In 2001 I married a partially blind girl from Nagpur who was also
studying in Pune. In 2004 my son Deep was born. In the same year I was
transferred to Nagpur. I applied for the post of lecturer in several
colleges in and around Nagpur but was not hired for being blind. In
2007 I applied for the post of lecturer in Shivaji University
Kolhapur, about 1200 K.M. from Nagpur. At last my dream came true and
I was selected for the post of lecturer. I decided to settle in
Kolhapur. After joining the Department of English Shivaji University,
I started working on my doctorate. In 2012 I completed PhD under the
guidance of Dr. C. A. Langare. The title of my Ph.D thesis is ”A
        Presently I am leading a successful and happy life with my wife and a
son. I have purchased a flat near the University campus. I spend most
of my time in teaching and research, (the two things I like most).
With computer, scanner and printer I execute all my jobs

Question : How do you motivate yourself to face the world every morning?

Answer : I begin my day along with my wife. We wake up our son and get him
ready for the school. I am eager to reach the department and deliver
my lectures. I never feel demotivated and need no motivation to face
the world. Rather I think it is the world that has to face me.

Question : The kudos palls after a while – so why go on?

Answer :  Although fame and glory are short-lived, they are worth having.
And one can achieve them again and again. Moreover, it helps one in
making good friends, and friendships are long lasting.

Question : It is so easier to accept the pity you are offered       than to
soldier on at an equal footing. What makes you choose the tougher
route, and where do you get the energy to do it?

Answer : I think it is not easy, but very difficult to accept the pity
that I am offered. I think I am equal and in many cases superior to
those who offer me pity. So why accept it? Pity is degrading for its
target. Moreover, most of the people offer pity in the name of god and
out of ulterior motives. I don’t believe in god, and I think offering
pity will do them no good. My thoughts and rationality are the source
of my energy.

Question : Do you not often encounter cynicism (external as well as internal)
and if yes, how do you cope with it?

Answer : External cynicism I do come across, but internal I don’t. Most of
the times I ignore the cynicism of others, and sometimes I try to find
out rational reasons for their cynicism.

Question : Did you have to struggle a lot to get where you are now? Can you
talk about one incident that encapsulates this phase?

Answer : Yes I had to struggle a lot to get here. It is very
difficult to name one single incident to describe that phase. I had to
struggle against all sorts of difficulties and problems which include
financial difficulties, non availability of study material in
accessible formats, travelling alone and all the problems and
difficulties that accompany blindness. The most serious problems that
I have to face are physical disability and social attitude to
disability. These problems I have to face and overcome on daily basis.

Question : What is your current goal? Where are you headed?

Answer : My current goal is to excel in whatever I am doing. I want to
keep my family happy and love them. I want to become a good teacher,
good researcher and a good friend. I am headed to becoming a good
writer. I am planning a few books about which I cannot tell anything

Question : Do you eat non-veg?
Answer : Yes I do.

Question : What is your preferred pastime?

Answer : Surfing internet, chatting with friends, reading and listening to music.

Question  : What kind of music do you like to listen to?

Answer : Gazals, and Hindi film songs of 60s, 70s and 80s.

Question : who has been the one significant influence on your life and how,

Answer : I cannot name any one single significant influence. All my family
members and friends have influenced my life, but none beyond a certain

Question : Do you feel loss of vision has been a debilitating factor, in your personal or professional life? If yes,how do you deal with / overcome the shortcomings?"

Answer : Of course loss of vision has several shortcomings, but it has not been a debilitating factor in my personal or professional life. I overcome the shortcomings with the help of my family and friends, and of course my inner resources.

Question :Do you encounter blind students? If yes, how does it feel?"

Answer : Yes I do. I feel good that more and more blind are studying and
trying to fulfil their dreams. I do all that I can do for them.

Question : Can you say something motivational for our audience, to wrap things up?

Answer : Don’t wait for opportunities or divine grace. Rely on your inner resources and fulfill your dreams. All the difficulties and obstaclescan be overcome.
 I quote a couplet by Nida Fazli
“Safar men dhoop to hogi, jo chal sako to chalo,
Sabhi hai bheed men tumbhi, nikal sako to chalo”

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Motivational book in Hindi , Manav ki Kahaani, and English case studies for MBA Preparation

This is an update i was waiting for for a really long time. Anil dadaji was recording some of the content over his summer break and has now been able to share his recording with us. It has one of the most amazing books i have ever read - Jonathan Livingstone Seagull, translated in Hindi by Shri Arvind Gupta.

You can find the 2 part book here:
Part 1
Part 2

Today, we also added 5 case studies for preparation of MBA Admission interview processes.

Please note that all these 5 cases are under copyright, and are only for the use of the visually challenged.

The Case of the Payroll Processing Mixie

The Case of the Strange Employees

Performance Appraisal Public Announcement

The Case of the Worried Man

To Chew or to Eschew

The other content is in the library.. though its only 10 files.. these are really a very important 10 files to be added to the library. I have been looking forward to this addition. :)

Please spread the word!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Blind School Visit - Rosemary Bhokta

Rosemary with the students of The Sri Ram School at the Junta Rehab Center
Inspiration comes in many ways and its fascinating when it comes through people who are less fortunate than us, yet, their strive to live and live as a winner is what makes all the difference. Today, through Esha we got a chance to visit the Junta Blind School. It was a heart touching experience for me. All I could do is wonder and wonder how this blind people, in spite of not having the gift of eyes fight the odds and try hard to make an independent living for themselves. The initiative Esha and Junta School is taking to make them self sufficient and employed is something to be highly appreciated.

In the Junta School we saw how the blind boys, learn to read and write through Braille, How they learn extracurricular activities like singing, computer and chair making. The teachers in the school where themselves blind and where degree holders from universities. They are actually doing a great job preparing this blind people for competitive exams and also ready for employment in industries or start their own ventures.

This initiative on part of Esha to incubate us in our SIP (Social Innovation Program) by sending us to the blind school was really successful as it inspired us a lot to understand the mission and vision of Esha. The compassion with which Esha works for this people is what we also share now and that will make us better motivated to work for the organisation henceforth.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

First Blind School Visit - by Sabrish Munendaran

“To be blind is not miserable; not to be able to bear blindness, that is miserable. - John Milton”

When I visited the blind school along with 40 odd children from The Sri Ram School, I had a plethora of thoughts going in my mind as to what to expect from this visit. This was my first active program as part of my Social Innovative Program and it was an inspirational experience.  Despite being at a disadvantage of knowing what they were deprived of, there were smiles, happiness and hope in each and every visually challenged student who was present. Be it the weaving of chairs using wires, playing harmonium and tabla to produce some pleasant music to the ears or the computer lab where I discovered a new innovative way to operate a computer, each and every moment I spent there was inspirational. While I was caught in the moment, I also looked at the faces of students from The Sri Ram school, curiosity filled expressions was seen across the room. I was sure that for many of us it was the first time we were experiencing something extraordinary like this.  We also managed to have a look at how Braille writing was done and I was surprised with the supreme level of precision the visually challenged people showed while making Braille content.

What lesson am I going to take from this visit? The lesson called Hope. There’s dialogue from a very famous movie called The Shawshank Redemption that goes like this “ Hope is a good thing, it is one of the best of things and no good thing ever dies” . What I saw there in the 3 hours I spent was Hope in action. We may be deprived of many things in life but there is always a reason for us to hope. And we should respect and acknowledge the things we have in a positive way and live our life to the fullest.

Thats the group before they left for the visit - L-R - Sahil, Rosemary and Sabrish

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Junta Center Visit by students of SOIL and The Sri Ram School

What happens when you put 3 MBA students in a school bus, and ask them to represent Esha for a field visit for 7th class students of The Sri Ram School?



While you enjoy the pictures.. do read their experiences:

Sahil Mehta

Today we had a visit to blind school. The main objective of this school was to train blind people to make them independent enough in life. The activities include learning Braille cards, musical instruments, basic understanding of computer applications, chair weaving and many more. The day started when we boarded school bus, after around 10 years. I felt nostalgic by revisiting that phase. It was really inspiring to see people working hard to train them. I was amused to see dedication of students and the eagerness with which they were learning new things.

It’s a difficult phase of life wherein you to need to motivate yourself to learn new things. To get out of disappointment and have self-control is appreciable for those students. I felt that people crib on little things when they have all the resources to overcome the situation. These students had limited resources and they were utilizing their resources to maximize their learning and thus use it as a talent to make them independent, employable and lead their life. I consider them as inspirational leaders who have the thinking to bring a change in society and create awareness among visually impaired society.
Thats Sahil and Rosemary at the Blind School with the students of Class 7

Orca Tutorials in Audio and other updates to the online audio library

We are very happy to share this news.. the online library now has some 20 new additions. Most of these were shared on the blog first, but the Orca Tutorials is posted only in the library.

Orcareader is an open source screenreader that works on linux laptops and desktops. Its completely free.

Do visit the online library and check it out. :)

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Esha as Incubator for the VI entrepreneurs

Yesterday, in a very invigorating discussion with SOIL students on what Esha is and is not, i was trying to stress the point that Esha is in the business of creating entrepreneurs, not contract workers. So the invoice goes in the name of the person and s/he gets the money directly.

And a very old Friend of Esha, sitting nearby, said, "So basically, you are a VC for the VI ?"

At that time, it seemed like a very good way of putting what we do at esha. we train them, incutabe them, mentor them till they are ready to open their wings and fly on their own.

But later, the more i thought about it the more intriguing it became. Like an epiphany, it occured: We dont incubate entrepreneurs. We look for employment options and design solutions and train. A very crucial element is missing here - the fire within. For an entrepreneur, the fire burns within him/her. Its not implanted from someone else.

And thats what's missing in our model - we do not listen to ideas that the VI might have, and then incubate them on these ideas.

And why dont we do it?
A. Most of our people dont know the open market enough to diagnose unmet needs and come up with solutions. They know the VI market very well, and in discussions with them, i have seen them come up with improvement areas for the VI space. So, thats a limitation. We might have to hear 100 ideas, maybe 500, before arriving at a viable one. Thats a risk and headache all incubators take.
B. The mindset. Like all Indians, they are brought up on the assurance of a govt job as a panacea for all financial problems and life problems. It is very hard, really, to break that mindset and think outside that box.

Neither of these, however, is a reason why we should NOT start that model - of listening to people who are visually challenged and want to start a business. Why Not?

So, we're on. The Esha model hereby undergoes a small change and incorporates a new area - we will now, also listen to original business ideas. if we have the moneys, we will do funding. Otherwise, we will mentor and provide guidance through highly qualified and committed Friends of Esha.

What do you think?

Monday, July 15, 2013

16 somvaar vrat katha in Hindi mp3

Someone on the Access India Digest asked for the 16 somvaar vrat katha in Hindi in mp3.

We have now recorded and uploaded this file and its free for all.

Please spread the word.