The Boy Who Opened My Eyes: Part 2

Continued from the previous post……….

He was walking on a path to create his own identity by dreaming of being financially independent and contributing to nation building in his own small way as much as he can by being an asset rather than a liability. He decided to take up the challenge of doing Post Graduation in Management. He wrote to Indian Institutes of Management seeking clarifications on provisions for appearing in CAT as a disabled candidate. He was disappointed when he received a letter from Chairman, Admission Committee of IIM (A) that there was no special provision for disabled candidates. He filed litigation in the court of Chief Disability Commissioner, which resulted into a reservation quota for handicapped community in the Indian Institutes of Management. Thus he began his preparations for MBA entrance tests. He searched for qualified writers after placing an advertisement in the local newspaper and visiting several college campuses. He approached many coaching institutes for guidance but was declined by all except one. He also appealed his coaching head for soft copy of MBA entrance study materials but his request was once again declined on the ground of copyright violation.

[Picture shows Mohd Asif with President Mr. Abdul Kalam and Asif’s wife Sajida – she too is visually impaired]

But his struggle paid off when he came across a CD ROM containing study materials. He appeared for CAT and XAT but did not get selected. He appealed to the director of Symbiosis Center for Management & Human Resource Development and that director decided to empower him by enrolling him in PGDM course at SCMHRD, Pune. However before he recommended Asif’s request for admission to the Management of the institute, the Director [Dr. MS Pillai] elicited a commitment from Asif that, “You shall not feel impaired, nor ask any concessions in standards of passing. You can and must pass out as No.1 and must get the first job on campus.”

This fired up Asif’s determination and he later got the best campus placement as well, apart from clearing all the subjects with marks above 60% in each. He had to attend all regular courses as well as yoga, meditation, Art of living, and work out along with his other sighted colleagues. The director instructed all faculty and staff members to pledge full support and assistance including special library books towards Asif’s education. His peers did group study for him. He also had to meet all requirements such as presentations, projects, summer internship, and minimum passing percentage of 60%, just like others. He appeared for internal assessment and exams through his talking laptop under supervision of staff members. The Director put him as in charge for trekking to the highest peak in Maharashtra as well to boost his confidence.

This Director of SCMHRD asked Asif to deliver a presentation on his life during the annual seminar to inspire others which Asif did with thundering applause from the audience and a standing ovation. Among the galaxy of speakers and delegates were Shri. D.R. Karthikeyan, former director of CBI and Dr. S.B.Majumdar, the visionary founder direcor of Symbiosis and Shri T.N.Seshan, former Chief Election Commissioner. Later Shri Karthikeyan took Asif’s story to Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, the President of India resulting into a personal invitation from the president to Asif. He was blessed with an opportunity to meet with President of India on August 23, 2004 at Rastrapati Bhawan to discuss the creation of cost effective speech technology, which would benefit large numbers of blind and visually impaired citizens of India. He did his summer internship with P.O Nedlloyd at Mumbai where he was offered pre placement opportunity due to his excellent work, by its Head-Asia Pacific operations, Mr.G.P.Sinha. In fact he was the first in the batch to have been given a final placement offer during the middle of the two-year course of PGDM.

He also received offers from Infosys, Bangalore and Iflex Solutions, Mumbai. He was invited to present a paper on “IT enabled for disabled” at Infocom’04 at Kolkata organized by NASSCOM and Business World group. Managing director of Price Waterhouse Pvt. Ltd., a leading consultancy, was impressed with his presentation and made an employment offer. Asif accepted the offer as Price Waterhouse Coopers was based at hometown of Kolkata. He is currently working as an IT consultant in Technology Advisory Services of Price Waterhouse Coopers. His assignment deals with finding business opportunities for his team and assisting his team in formulating IT strategy for PWC Clients.

He is a firm follower of his mentor, Prof. Pillai, the former director of SCMHRD – “Live life with humility and there is no shortcut to success.” He believes in making the most out of the limited resources he has and looks at future with great sense of hope and challenge.

I was fascinated by Asif’s story. Here was a young man whose determination to fight adversities knows no bounds. Interaction with Asif made me introspect me on my ways of overcoming hurdles, and I was one to run away from them.

I was angry with myself for not having tried in some difficult times, and I was angry with my country that offers very little support to disabled persons – education and transport are also a problem. And how people around them do everything to snuff out hope from their minds.
 Dr MS Pillai who is now Director of Sadhana Centre of Management and Leadership Development [SCMLD] is not really an educationist, he is a character builder and institution builder. His students are fiercely loyal to him, a wonder really not found commonly today in Management Institutes. I am proud that I happen to be his friend. More about him some other time….