KANNIYAKUMARI: Poliomyelitis incapacitates the body, not one’s tenacity. C Michael Gerald is one who will vouch for it, always. The 47-year-old assistant public prosecutor from Kanniyakumari, working at the Tirunelveli district court, does not get too bothered about his left leg that was afflicted with polio at the tender age of five. What drives him is a mission: to give a helping hand to the disabled and the marginalised youth around him, and provide free online coaching to advocates appearing for civil judge exams.
Michael managed to finish his schooling in Rajavoor and graduated with a BSc in Zoology from Arignar Anna College, Aralvaimozhi. He went on to obtain a degree from Madurai Law College and started his career as a practising advocate at the district court in Nagercoil from 1998.
During his time there, he grew increasingly aware of his status as a person with disabilities, and decided tou dedicate his time and effort to helping other disabled persons and youngsters from various marginalised groups. As part of this, he began organising youngsters from his village in a Gandhian manner and provided incentives in the form of prizes to top performers in SSLC and Class 12 examinations. Nowadays, the village residents themselves have taken over this responsibility and conduct the ceremony every year, Michael says.
From 2014 onwards, Michael began getting together fellow educated persons to provide free coaching classes for both state and central government service exam aspirants. Instead of getting married and settling down at the time, Michael built a library in his living quarters and opened it up for all his students. So began his routine of attending his practice as an advocate at the district court in Nagercoil the morning, and taking classes for aspirants in the evening.
Michael was chosen to be the assistant public prosecutor in 2021 at the Tirunelveli district court, where he currently serves. Still, his work goes on, as he has shifted his classes online, he continues to motivate and support youngsters from across Tamil Nadu preparing for Assistant Public Prosecutor (APP) and civil judge exams. On top of it all, Michael has been keen on spreading awareness to other persons with disabilities about government exams, the prospects and provisions they have for landing a government job. My wish is to set up a good library in my village so that youngsters from such a marginalised background can access good material to prepare for competitive exams, and gain knowledge, says Michael. In 2022, he got married. Notably, many of the aspirants he coached managed to land various government jobs.
Nagercoil TNSTC differently-abled workers’ union’s general secretary S Murugan recollects a pivotal role played by Micheal Gerald in establishing the union in 1998. At present, more than 80 on-duty and retired workers are part of the union. “Gerald made us aware of our rights and ensured we received conveyance allowance and other benefits. Moreover, he also translated the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016,” adds Murugan.
Working in the school education department, M Agalya (MSc MPhil) says that when her family resided in Thovalai, she would diligently attend advocate Gerald’s free coaching classes in Rajavoor. Except for maths, he taught us all other subjects, she recalls.
Anish (ME) from Rajavoor, currently working in railways, adds that more than 20 youngsters from in and around his village, landed various government jobs, all thanks to Michael. He is an inspiration for all of us, he says.
(Edited by Suriya B)