Guiding light at end of tunnel

Visually-impaired Coimbatore man helps redefine lives of disabled with a coaching centre for government exams
Instructor Ganesh Subramaniyan interacts with the visually-impaired students at the National Federation of the Blind in Coimbatore | S Senbagapandiyan
Instructor Ganesh Subramaniyan interacts with the visually-impaired students at the National Federation of the Blind in Coimbatore | S Senbagapandiyan

COIMBATORE: Tears of happiness rolled down A Dharani’s cheeks as her mobile phone beeped with a message — her first salary was credited to her bank account. Stifled by poverty, when this 29-year-old visually-impaired Erode native finished her coaching classes in Chennai in 2017, bagging a government job did not feature even in her wildest dreams. But five years down the line, here she is receiving a salary as a clerical staff of Employee State Insurance Corporation.

This is not just the story of Dharani. Thousands like her are redefining their lives and charting new paths with the help of T Sadhasivam, a visually-impaired man. For nearly a decade, Sadhasivam has been providing free coaching for government examinations. The 65-year-old man from Singanallur has spent his whole life fighting for the betterment of his community.

When Sadashivam was just seven years old, he lost his eyesight to brain fever. “My parents were unaware of the proper treatment. So, I lost my vision just one year after getting infected with the fever,” he recalls. But this did not deter him. He completed his Bachelor of Arts in English and decided to help people like him.

With a heart-thumping grit, he stepped onto the social front in 1979 when he was only 18 years old and joined the National Federation of the Blind (NFB).

“Initially, I ran a telephone booth and later moved to a staff position in a private health organisation. Since 2006, I have been a full-time participant in NFB,” says Sadashivam.

In 2015, he transformed the NFB office at Varatharajapuram into a coaching centre for visually impaired people, and around 2,000 people have benefitted from it. One of them incluse V Arunkumar (25) from Pollachi, the son of a potter.

After cracking the Railway Recruitment Board (RRB) exam, he says, “Every day, I used to visit the centre by travelling over 50 km by getting three buses. Without the centre, I could not imagine entering the government office.”

Sadashivam says, 99% of our students are from economically backward backgrounds. “Free accommodation and food is provided. To run the centre, we receive monetary aid from institutions like Rotary clubs, and all 10 faculty are working without any remuneration,” he adds.

One among those teachers is Ganesh Subramanian (55), a retired Indian Air Force Staff from Coimbatore. When he visited the NFB centre in 2015, he witnessed the gathering of visually impaired aspirants struggling to learn to prepare for the exams. To support them, he decided to join them. Under his guidance, around 110 people cleared government exams this year.

Another student, P Pandiyaraj (25) from Rajapalayam, explains, “Ganesh Subramanian used to share questions related to exams on WhatsApp every morning. This helped me to crack the bank test. The centre has made big changes to the visually impaired persons’ for getting a new lease in life.”

A visually-impaired candidate named R Ashok (26), the son of a daily-wage labourer got selected as Officer in Canara Bank with the support of the centre.

In September, Ashok invited Sadhasivam and all his teachers to his housewarming ceremony. Sadhasivam proudly watched on as Ashok managed to purchase his very first home at Saravanampatti in Coimbatore at a cost of `65 lakh. Each penny had been carefully saved for months. Sadhasivam hopes that every student of his manages to carve their own paths and fulfil their aspirations.

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