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They can't see, but have big dreams

By Manu AB and Indrani Roy Mitra in Mumbai
Last updated on: December 23, 2006 16:28 IST
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An amazing group of youngsters catch your attention at the Pan-IIT meet, at Bandra Kurla Complex in suburban Mumbai. Ten visually handicapped youngsters, handling tele-networking for Pan-IIT, are in charge of answering your queries and helping out the delegates at the venue.

Using the phones and answering your queries is no big deal for them. Pleasant and intelligent, they guide you with all the information you need. They use normal phones - it comes by practice. The latest phones are easy to use, they say.

"We have been working with Pan-IIT for about a month now. It has been a fantastic experience. Our job entails calling up people and informing them about the event. IITians are very polite and interesting people to work with," says Arundhati Viswanathan, while helping out a delegate.

PanIIT Global Conference 2006

Pan-IIT association has hired 10 people from the National Association of the Blind to handle the calls and help out delegates at the venue. It has been a good experience to have them work for us, says P S Ramanathan, member of the organising committee.

Nikita Patil who is just 22 is all smiles. "This is for the first time I have been associated with a big event of this nature. It has been a great experience for me working with the IITians," she says.

Aparna Nalkar, who recently graduated from Mumbai's Ruia College, has always nourished a dream that of meeting President A P J Abdul Kalam in person. And thanks to the Pan-IIT organisers, her dream is about to be realised as she waits eagerly for the arrival of India's first citizen. The President is set to address the summit organised by the alumni of the Indian Institutes of Technology.

Clad in a designer outfit, friendly smile never leaving her lips, Aparna feels the IIT conference assignment will go a long way in laying the foundation of her career -- that of a telephone operator.

Aparna and her other friends from the National Association for the Blind are handling the difficult task of networking with the IIT alumni across the country under the able guidance of NAB honorary secretary Suhas V Karnik.

"For more than a month, this group practiced tele-calling at group leader Anandi Viswanathan's place and each was provided with a list of telephone numbers. It was a rigorous exercise for all but they were ready to face the challenge," says Karnik.

"This assignment will be particularly helpful for building the confidence of these young hearts and will also make them happy. Each of the tele-callers will be given some remuneration to buy something this Christmas," smiles Karnik.

Latha, 26, adds, "It's been a great learning experience working here." She is currently doing her post graduation in Hindi from Bombay University. Latha is a swimming and Malkamb champ.

An avid learner of languages, she knows Marathi, Gujarati, Hindi, English and German. Her mission: to read Hitler's Mein Kempf in German.

"We are anxiously waiting to meet the President," says Arundhati. But she is not sure if he will have time for them.

Latha adds that she is extremely happy to be at the event.

So what's in store for them after the event gets over on December 25? All these youngsters have big dreams. Their handicap has never been a hindrance to achieving their goals so far.

"I teach pranik healing and yoga. It has helped me a lot to gain confidence to take on challenges in life. Not being able to see is no longer a handicap to me. I no longer see it as a limitation," says Arundhati.

Arundhathi is pursuing a software programming course and hopes to work for IT biggies like Infosys or Wipro. Later she plans to have her own firm so that she can employ more people.

"I have been talking about IITians' agenda of nation building to all the people I have been calling. Now it has turned out to be my agenda also. I would love to network with people and make a difference to the society."
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Manu AB and Indrani Roy Mitra in Mumbai

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