Ravi Shankar, aged 30, is the resident of a small village, Gimuha in Kurara block, Hamirpur district, Uttar Pradesh. Hailing from an extremely poor family, Ravi Shankar lives with his parents, who earn a meager income as farm labourers. His siblings, three brothers and a sister, deserted the family on getting married.
Ravi Shankar became totally blind at the age of 8 due to Smallpox. He still recalls the horrible phase of stark poverty, when the family could hardly earn any money to attend to the ailing father.
Ravi Shankar, prior to our intervention, had hardly any support from any member of the family or the community. The only person who would come to his rescue was a neighbour full of pity for him. He would provide some food to Ravi Shankar who would spend most of his time in his company.
Our CBR worker got to know about Ravi Shankar through the village head. The worker found him in the small hut of the neighbour, dejected, depressed and with a drooping morale. Yet, the relieving feature was that he desperately wanted to do something for himself in life. But, with no knowledge, skill or support, there was nothing that he could think of for himself.
It was this continuous yearning for leading a life of his own and supporting his family, that differentiated Ravi Shankar from many other visually impaired persons contacted by our team. He had a spark of hope within him and a strong urge to change his life.
When he was told about the efforts of our organization to support persons like him, Ravi Shankar came out with a positive response. He was keen to learn and thus began the interaction between him and our field worker.
Ravi Shankar showed great interest in the training imparted to him. He picked up the required skills of independent mobility, self-care and social communication with great enthusiasm. As a result, he could come out of his dependence on others and embarked upon his journey on the road to independent living.
Ravi Shankar’s interest and motivation was so great that he insisted on being imparted necessary skills for earning a livelihood as well. It seemed that he wanted to learn everything all at once. He was counselled to proceed in a systematic and steady manner. As a consequence, training was carefully planned out to help him gain economic independence.
Noting his strong urge to become self-supporting, our field worker decided in consultation with Ravi Shankar to provide him necessary skills and competence to run a small shop. But he had no financial backing of his own or that of the family to take up the venture. So, after ensuring that Ravi Shankar had picked up all requisite skills in the right sequence, he was provided an interest-free loan of Rs. 10,000 for starting a small grocery shop.
This was the impetus Ravi Shankar needed to set him firmly on becoming a successful small entrepreneur. He picked up with great interest and enthusiasm the skills of account keeping, recognizing and weighing various articles, identifying different coins and currency notes. Soon, he became a popular shopkeeper in the area.
Ravi Shankar is now recognized in the rural community as a successful small entrepreneur, supporting himself and his parents. He is able to sell material worth about Rs. 300-400 per day with a net income of around Rs. 70-80 per day through this venture. He also confidently looks forward to expanding his venture and fulfilling his long-standing aspiration to get married and have a family of his own.
This real life story is an example of how visual disability does not always totally shatter the confidence and competence of the individual. It brings out in sharp focus the truth of the well-known adage “where there is a will, there is a way”. Ravi Shankar had ‘the will’ to some extent; our field worker showed him ‘the way’ forward and guided him every step of the way to independent and contributory living.